The borough signs an exclusive, 180-day agreement with bank owner SAS WHP, LP to redevelop the former Jefferson Bank property in the 300 block of the White Horse Pike into residential units.
By Matt Skoufalos | May 19, 2023
While work proceeds apace on plans to revitalize the historic property at 501 Station Avenue in Haddon Heights, the municipality this week entered into an agreement with another conditional redeveloper to transform a former bank property into multifamily housing.
Borough council passed a resolution designating SAS WHP, LP, owners of the former Jefferson Bank at 322-324 White Horse Pike, as the conditional redeveloper for the property.
The two parties will enter into an exclusive, 180-day negotiating period, during which they will work to come to terms on a project transforming the vacant bank into a project that will add new residential units to the borough housing inventory.
Under terms of the agreement, SAS WHP will place $10,000 in escrow to cover any professional fees incurred by borough staffers as a result of developing those plans.
The entity specifically formed for the project is controlled by the Philadelphia-based Cohen & Company investment group, which has long held title to the property.
Haddon Heights designated municipal block 36, lots 10 and 11, as areas in need of redevelopment in its 2022 Redevelopment and Rehabilitation study, under Criterion D of New Jersey redevelopment law, “due to Faulty Arrangement and Deleterious Land Use.”
Criterion D covers properties “… which, by reason of dilapidation, obsolescence, overcrowding, faulty arrangement or design, lack of ventilation, light and sanitary facilities, excessive land coverage, deleterious land use or obsolete layout, or any combination of these or other factors, are detrimental to the safety, health, morals, or welfare of the community.”
The redevelopment study describes the parcel at 322-324 White Horse Pike as “… two Victorian office buildings connected by a modern structure.
“Much of the building has been demolished, and the second floor of one of the former Victorian buildings is inaccessible due to stair removal,” the report reads.
“These factors contribute to a faulty arrangement and deleterious land use that will make the parcels difficult to redevelop.”
Rafi Licht, representative for SAS WHP, said the property has historically functioned as a bank, but since that use was discontinued years ago, sourcing office or retail tenants for the space has proven difficult.
“A bank is a very specific use,” Licht said. “There’s generally not a ton of interest in locating businesses at that spot on the White Horse Pike; most potential commercial users, either office or medical, are looking further down in either direction.
Details on the scope and design of the project will emerge after conversations between the redeveloper and the borough government. Licht said the redeveloper must contend with the interests of maintaining neighborhood character as well as “the simple economics of multifamily development in this market.
“There has been very little development in the region, from a multifamily standpoint, and Haddon Heights is a great neighborhood where people like to live,” he said.
“Costs are high, debt is expensive, and rents are where they are,” Licht said. “We need to balance all of that.”
The project is designed to bring new residents to the borough to enjoy the benefits of life there, Licht said, including its walkability, proximity to mass transit, and community charm.
“We’ve owned this for a very long time,” Licht said. “The highest and best use of this corner is clearly something multifamily.”
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