A deal could bring the popular Lindenwold eatery to a former Burger King lot. La Esperanza owners, the Cordova family, already hold a liquor license in the borough.
By Matt Skoufalos
In February 2015, Oaklyn Mayor Robert Forbes said the borough government would “aggressively pursue redevelopment” of three key properties along the White Horse Pike; since then, plans have been laid for all three.
The 24-unit apartment complex located next to the Oaklyn Discount Liquor store was the first to head for an overhaul.
Dollar General is expected to present an application for the second location, the former Casa Di Luzio restaurant, next month.
Now plans are in the works that would resolve the fate of the third property, the former Burger King lot, through eminent domain.
“We’ve made a fair market offer for that property a month ago, we waited the duration, and now there’s an ordinance to approve the taking of the property,” Forbes said.
At the same time, the borough is in negotiations with the ownership group behind the popular Lindenwold restaurant, La Esperanza, to transform the vacant lot into a second location for its Mexican eatery. Forbes said that once the borough takes control of the property, it would likely finance the work necessary to clear the site for its new owners instead of finding a developer to do so.
“If we do a lease-to-own, we can get a better [interest]rate and be a bit more attractive,” Forbes said.
“We would acquire the site, make the site pad-ready—we would do all the drainage, the site work—and then they would come in and put a building in it.”
‘Oaklyn’s a good town for us’
La Esperanza co-owner Saul Cordova said that that his family is anxious to expand to the area, but can’t commit to anything until the numbers are solidified.
“We do have a liquor license in the town of Oaklyn, and we would like to use it,” Cordova said. “It’s really contingent upon when the town gets to acquire the property and does everything that has to be done.
“We have to play the waiting game,” he said.
Cordova said that Oaklyn represents an opportunity to expand his business because it’s situated “a little bit closer to Philadelphia” and the inner-ring suburbs of Camden from which the restaurant already draws customers.
“It’s similar to where we are [and]not too far away from our first location,” he said. “We draw from that area well already. It would be something to have a location closer to that area.
“Oaklyn’s a good town for us,” Cordova said. “It seems to be open to new businesses.”
Cordova said that a second La Esperanza location “would be similar but not the same” to the original Lindenwold property in terms of layout, menu, and atmosphere. The restaurant is known for its authentic Mexican cuisine and extensive selection of top-shelf tequilas.
“We haven’t really put pen to paper per se, but we would like to keep some of our favorites and add some new stuff to make it different,” Cordova said.
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