The process has been a long one, but the efforts of local civic and business leaders are finally bearing fruit at Foxboro Plaza.

The process has been a long one, but the efforts of local civic and business leaders are finally bearing fruit at Foxboro Plaza.

The plaza had fallen into disuse in recent years and become an eyesore in the center of the township. Having multiple empty storefronts in such a prominent location led to a litany of complaints from residents, with some of those disgruntled voices reaching the ears of the township’s trustees.

“The things we’ve heard is this being in the middle of the township and you had a nice plaza going in across the street,” Jackson Township Board of Trustees president Todd Hawke said. “There were also concerns about the disrepair of the parking lot and one thing we don’t want to have is empty storefronts anywhere in our township.”

Hawke represented the trustees in working with Robert G. Nieto & Associates, the owner of the property, and realtor Steve Eisenberg of Arnold J. Eisenberg to help fill one of the major holes in the plaza. Goodwill Industries is in the process of taking over the space once occupied by Jack’s supermarket, which shut down its operations in Jackson.

Hawke’s work with Robert G. Nieto & Associates began before the new tenant for the old Jack’s supermarket location had been identified and he worked with the involved parties to find a lease that made sense for everyone. Along with Hawke, the township’s Community Improvement Corporation worked to push the process forward. The CIC has identified filling empty storefronts as one of its main goals and has coordinated with commercial real-estate agents about how the township can them help lure businesses to vacant facilities.



RISE AND FALL



Pinpointing a specific time for the decline of the plaza or an exact reason for its downturn isn’t easy, Hawke noted, but the concerns within the community were clear. The plaza, located near both North Park and South Park which draw large numbers of visitors, remained largely empty.

As of October 2011, township records showed 153 vacant commercial properties in the township. By September 2012, that number had grown to 177. Realtors and CIC members met to discuss ways to address the issue and for the trustees, the topic of vacant properties posed a specific concern.

“It’s very close to big parts of our parks system and that’s where visitors for sporting events and tournaments come when they visit the township,” Hawke said. “It’s one of those things that is about rounding out an area to visit with more restaurants and places to eat and a place like Goodwill prvoiding opportunities for jobs to that area and people to be able to donate to that cause there.”

For Goodwill Industries, the plaza is a space that has been on the radar for some time. The organization has maintained its donation center in Jackson for more than a decade and with Foxboro Plaza just across the road, the possibility of moving has been a topic of discussion for Goodwill officials for some time, according to vice president of retail operations Mary Moriarty.

Since the move became official, the response of the community has been enthusiastic about having another hole in the plaza filled - not to mention one that is extremely community-minded.

“The community has been very excited about the new location and to see something is happening in this center where nothing has been going on for quite a while,” Moriarty said. “We have had a presence in Stark with donation and store locations for years and through our Jackson recycling location and donation center for the last 10 years or so.”

As part of Goodwill’s move to the plaza, the organization is working with Robert G. Nieto & Associates to address concerns over the state of the parking lot. Any upgrades will benefit not only the new store and donation center, but also fellow tenants such as Be’Wiched, a new sandwich shop that opened earlier this month. The shop moved into what was formerly Porky’s, filling one of the empty storefronts in the plaza.

“It was hugely important for us. People are pleased the parking lot is going to be redone because there are some really big potholes there and some people don’t even want to drive through the parking lot,” Be’Wiched owner Melissa Snyder said. “It was kind of distressing (the state of the plaza in recent years) because this is an up-and-coming area of the township with the safety center, the high school and the middle school. Now, we feel like it’s definitely looking up and with Goodwill coming in, people are excited.”

With Goodwill Industries and Be’Wiched alongside existing tenants such as Rite Aid, El Rincon and Blair’s dry cleaning the landscape of Foxboro Plaza is gradually returning to what it once was. Empty spaces remain and there is work to be done, but the positive traction of recent months is a welcome sight for township officials, the business community and residents who have long lamented its decline.

Reach Andy at 330-580-8396 or andy.harris@thesuburbanite.com.
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB