The state Department of Environmental Protection has been monitoring air quality at the properties at 27 and 29 Kings Highway for six years amid reports of groundwater contamination at the site.
By Matt Skoufalos | August 1, 2023
After a decade in Audubon, Cacia’s Bakery is pulling up stakes amid deteriorated conditions at its Kings Highway storefront.
A note in the shop window last week blamed “the negligence of our landlord” to maintain the property, which included the vacant American Cleaners, Inc. next door.
Raymond Cacia said his family’s bakery had enjoyed the community, and was unhappy to have to relocate.
“We definitely didn’t want to move,” Cacia said.
“It was a good run while we were there,” he said.
“The people were really nice.”
Cacia’s Bakery will relocate to 26 South Haddon Avenue in Haddonfield, most recently the site of Asian fusion restaurant Spice C.
The shop will feature fresh-baked bread, rolls, square pizza, stromboli, and hoagies, supplemented by an expanded takeout menu.
“We’re a bakery first,” Cacia said. “Whatever the neighborhood likes, we’re happy to bring in.”
Cacia said he hopes to open in Haddonfield by the first week of September. In the meantime, the 75-year-old family bakery maintains locations in Blackwood, Cherry Hill, Hammonton, Woodstown, and South Philadelphia.
The properties at 27 and 29 East Kings Highway are registered to James and Deborah Baker of Florida, whom Audubon Borough Administrator David Taraschi described as “absentee landlords” unresponsive to communication about declining conditions at the storefront.
“We have an unsafe structure that’s been neglected by the owner,” Taraschi said. “The building is compromised.”
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has been monitoring air quality reports at the property since 2016, the result of an ongoing groundwater contamination issue, Taraschi said.
When he approached the agency about getting assistance to demolish the building, NJDEP “was more than willing to help us, and will shoulder the full cost of the project,” Taraschi said.
“We’re thrilled that the D.E.P. partnered with us to do this,” he said.
Taraschi couldn’t confirm the scope nor the cost of the project, but said that local demolition estimates solicited within the past few years had approached $100,000.
(Requests for more information regarding the project were submitted to NJDEP; check back for updates.)
The borough supported one residential tenant at the property in relocating, and discussed options to help Cacia’s relocate within Audubon over a period of months, Taraschi said.
The bakery owners had hoped to continue operating while the dry cleaners was demolished, but ultimately, decided to relocate.
“Can that building stay while the rest of the building is being demolished?” Taraschi said.
“Yes, but you’ll be unable to operate physically, and you might not be able to keep the business afloat,” he continued. “Could any business survive being closed six, eight, 10 weeks with construction equipment onsite?”
Taraschi described the NJDEP-led demolition as “making the best of a bad situation.
“Lienholders were not a solution to the problem; the Bakers were not a solution to the problem,” he said. “We ultimately came to a conclusion with the D.E.P.”
Both properties are zoned for commercial use; Taraschi said that any future residential or mixed-use construction at the site would require either a redevelopment agreement or zoning variance to establish.
No redevelopment plans are in the works, however Audubon Mayor Rob Jakubowski said the borough remains optimistic that the property can be returned to active use in the future.
“We’re going to miss Cacia’s,” Jakubowski said. “They were a great neighbor.
“The good news is they’re not going to be far away, but we miss having them here.
“Let’s let D.E.P. do their work,” the mayor said. “If Mrs. Baker has ideas, we’re open to see what she wants to do with it. If she sells it, and someone else wants to develop it, we’re open.
“We look forward for any ideas that may come,” he said. “Let’s get this structure solved, and we can all move forward.”
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