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Letter: Walgreens Could Jumpstart Cedar Lane Revitalization

Proposed Walgreens store on Cedar Lane will offer tax revenue boost, letter says.

The following is a letter to the editor submitted by Elie Y. Katz, a Teaneck councilman: 

Let me start by saying that I am not writing this in any official capacity, but rather to express my views as a resident and tax payer concerned about the future of Cedar Lane and the tax base of Teaneck.

If I were making the decision of what store to place on Cedar Lane and its location, I probably would not have chosen another pharmacy and certainly not next door to CVS and J&J. In my opinion, another pharmacy in Teaneck is needed as much as another bank, ATM or nail salon.

In the last year and a half, I have heard from residents, read articles, and driven past many of the stores on Cedar Lane that are for rent, lay vacant and give the impression that Cedar Lane is dying. Most recently the yogurt shop and Louie’s Charcoal Pit have closed. The movie theater closed, but hopefully there is a new operator that will renovate and invest over $500,000 into the facility.

Let me be clear: not only is Cedar Lane alive and vibrant, it has some of the best merchants and shopping in Bergen County. If you have not walked or shopped Cedar Lane recently, make it a point to do so and fall in love with the wonderful merchants that are here servicing Teaneck; they do need our support.

However, when a multi-billion dollar national retailer, that spends millions of dollars on market research determines that it makes economic sense to infuse over three million dollars into Teaneck's downtown business district and there is no one in line before or after as an alternative, I feel we should welcome the idea. Maybe this merchant is not the perfect merchant and maybe this location is not the perfect location, but it also well known that national retailers attract other national retailers.

This project doesn't have to be the end of Cedar Lane, but the turning of the tide for more growth and future Cedar Lane investments that we as a community may then  have the luxury of being a little more discerning and vocal about.

Two things are for certain; we need to bring in more commercial revenue to help shift the tax burden from our residents to the commercial districts and to do that we need to revitalize our main business district, Cedar Lane. I would like to see this project follow the guidance from Teaneck's Master plan and have more height, possibly add a few apartments upstairs.

The Teaneck tax assessor recently did an analysis of the current property. He determined that the proposed structure to be erected by Walgreens on the current site of Block 702 Lots 1, 2 & 3 will contain 10,557 square feet, inclusive of a single vehicle drive-through canopy. The likely assessed value will be approximately $5.3 million dollars inclusive of land.  At an assessed value of $5,300,000 and using the 2012 tax rate of $2.40/$100, taxes generated by the property are estimated to be $127,200.

The current value of the three properties that currently occupy the location (Larry's Automotive, Louie’s and the old Davis Toys store) is $3,147,500, which in 2012 yielded taxes of $75,540. This Walgreens project will yield an additional $51,660 in annual taxes.

For years, Teaneck has been anti "drive thru." In an era when commerce is being done to make life more convenient from instant everything, online ordering to apps! Why not a "drive thru"? (as long as  the Teaneck Police Traffic Bureau feels it can be built safely).

Look how successful the Cedar Lane Dunkin Donuts "drive thru" has been. Its outstanding usage says that Teaneck residents and shoppers are being less inconvenienced, and are enjoying the luxury and benefit of staying in their car to order and pick up their food.  I know Dunkin Donuts may not be a great example, since at times it is a little too successful, but Walgreens is also not a donut shop.

The current Larry's gas station, which Walgreens will replace, has four drive thru pump lanes with vehicles going in and out all day. If the CVS drive thru at Queen Anne Road and Cedar Lane is any indication of what to expect with a drive thru pharmacy, there will be a reduction in drive thru traffic with the new Walgreens at that location. I imagine that taking advantage of the convenience of the pharmacy "drive thru" are many seniors and parents with children that can't or don't want to get out of their vehicles and walk in for their prescriptions. If a drive thru is the business model that Walgreens feels they need to be successful, then why hinder that?

The current CVS by North and Cedar (or Larch) has not only been a great shopping anchor for Cedar Lane, but it has also acted as a great shopping feeder to other merchants on the Lane. I expect the new proposed Walgreens to do the same.

We should not let the quest for a perfect project get in the way of a good project. We should throw out a welcome mat for businesses that want to invest in Teaneck and not an obstacle course.

So, while this may not appear to be the ideal merchant and it could potentially be a real change to the look of the Lane we all have come to know and love, it may end up being the jumpstart to the revitalization that Cedar Lane and Teaneck desperately need.

If we are not prepared to work with other people's vision, then we must prepare to continue and pay the tax increases.

-- Elie Y. Katz 

 

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zizi April 12, 2013 at 03:22 AM
Barbara: There are people in control of Teaneck... just not the right kind of people.... The people in control believe that the tax payers are a non-ending source for their luxurious life style...... They are living the "life"...Tax and spend.... borrow and spend... Free cars.... free insurance.... free gas.... new hires... finding and exploring new project that will allow them to spend more tax money..... what they don't have time for is to reduce the budget..... cut some heads.... trim some line items..... This town needs a revolution.... the council and the mayor has to be thrown out... and replaced by people who will represent the interests of the citizens..... let us name a platform for such people .... The name should be something like "Cut cut and cut the Town budget".. let us have some people run on this platform... I nominate Alan Sohn and "AG"..... two people I came to know through this site
Tom Abbott April 12, 2013 at 04:14 AM
For the record, neither Elie Katz nor any council person has any direct involvement in the Board of Adjustments decision on Walgreen. If indeed, he has even discussed this privately with members of the BofA it would be an ethics violation. He like any member of the public can go before the board and testify in support of the project. In the past, it was common for township governing bodies such as the Teaneck council to override decisions. As a result, the laws were changed and an appeal can only be made through the court system.
Tom Abbott April 12, 2013 at 04:24 AM
In my experience listening to Board of Adjustment hearings, there is no 5 minute limit on testimony. Members of the public are also allowed to ask questions of the witnesses presented at the hearings as well and there is often a back and forth dialogue.
Dee Are April 12, 2013 at 12:57 PM
Just a few notes. Stores open and close all the time. Toy stores, collectibles stores, restaurants and on and on. The close for MANY reasons. New ones open and often, they close too. I'm sure that if someone were to put together a list of EVERY store on Cedar Lane which has opened and closed (maybe ordered chronologically, with a column for how long it was open) and compared it to a similar chart of Engelwood stores, one would see that now is not much more dire than other times, and here is not much better than there. We keep holding Engelwood up as some model. I hate Palisade Avenue. The traffic flow is abysmal, the angled parking is a muddled mess and the stores descend from ones I can't afford to ones I am not interested in in a span of 2 blocks. Cedar Lane is shorter but is, to my mind, much more welcoming. Does that mean I use it exclusively? Nope. I get my glasses elsewhere, my shoes (usually) elsewhere (though I get them repaired only on Cedar Lane), my groceries elsewhere, my clothes elsewhere etc. Some of those "elsewhere"s are in Teaneck, some in a mall and some just somewhere else. And for each item, I have a good reason. The same reason that, growing up in one town, my mom shopped for certain things 2 towns over. Not because what we had wasn't good. We keep looking for a specific and strict cause and effect relationship so that we can predict "if we build it, they will come." It doesn't work like that. Business is often trial and error. Let's keep trying.
Tee Smyth April 12, 2013 at 01:43 PM
@ Carol. I've been to Simply the Best Clothing. No disrespect to the owner, but......their style of clothes is for a certain type of person. I'm not that person. No, I've never been to Hair Master West as I am almost positive that they do not know how to/do not regularly work on natural hair. I do get my hair done in Teaneck....just not on Cedar Lane. I will admit that I've never been to Teaneck General Store. Nothing has ever enticed me to go there. Cedar Lane has niche stores for a particular clientele. And if that's the vision for Cedar Lane, awesome. But, I will continue spending my funds in Englewood and elsewhere.
Abigail April 12, 2013 at 02:54 PM
Other than the parking, another major problem with Cedar Lane is that so many of its businesses are closed on Saturdays. That is not attractive to retailers, especially those that have to be closed on Sundays due to the blue laws.
Dee Are April 12, 2013 at 03:20 PM
So Louies went out of business because Mabat was closed on a Saturday? And a jewelry store won't open because a Judaica store is closed on a Saturday? One would think that the reduced religious Jewish population present on Saturday would make parking easier and make the remaining stores more desirable on Saturday. Let's try not assigning blame to the calendar or other stores and say that stores close because they don't create enough of a buzz to make it worth going to them.
zizi April 12, 2013 at 04:06 PM
@Tee: you can always change/convert to suit the likes of some vocal minority that knows how to rig the system and use it...... or just be yourself.... and not visit Cedar Lane which most people do.... and hence Cedar Lane is a dump.....
zizi April 12, 2013 at 04:16 PM
@Dee: There are people who are educated and specialize in market research and can predict with great accuracy the survivability of any business at a particular location. These people are often hired by big corporations and hence they do not suffer from store failures often. It does not mean these people are perfect.. they make mistakes too. Small mama papa stores just cannot afford such people and hence suffer greatly the consequences of their misadventures. Business these days are more science than it used to be..... We as a town should allow big name companies (who can afford to hire such people) to come and open shops specially when they do not ask for tax breaks and willing to invest and pay taxes..... It will be better to take a chance on such companies....
PM April 12, 2013 at 05:45 PM
This is MY favorite: Let me be clear: not only is Cedar Lane alive and vibrant, it has some of the best merchants and shopping in Bergen County. If you have not walked or shopped Cedar Lane recently, make it a point to do so and fall in love with the wonderful merchants that are here servicing Teaneck; they do need our support. OK, so define vibrant? I walked from CVS to Palisade Avenue last week (on the theater side of the street) on a sunny afternoon on the weekend. I passed ONE person. Elie, your comment is a #FAIL Also, Elie, while I have you here, on another matter, why are there tons of Elie Katz campaign signs hanging in your office window on West Englewood Ave? The town had a hissy fit when someone had a McCain Palin sign out a week or two after the election. They should be removed so the public can't see them. Post them in your office. Campaign signs from 3 years ago are expired and only show ego.
Lisa Dee April 12, 2013 at 05:53 PM
All anyone needs to do is stand on Cedar Lane on either side of Cedar Lane by movie theater on any day of the week, choose any time of day and count pedestrians never mind real shoppers its pathetic and disgraceful as a town we let things get this bad. I am not one who holds Englewood as a model to follow (Just parking garage) but think about it some Franchises (Ben & Jerrys,Cold stone creamery,), some chains (Panera Bread,Starbucks), and some independent boutiques that choose to locate in Englewood,Closter, Northvale etc. would never even consider Teaneck. I don't know the way to change the image of Teaneck and change the reality that exists. Lets not forget most chains left more than 25 years ago ie. Dress Barn, Shoe Town,Hit & Miss, Jersey Camera,GNC etc. The lack of parking killed Louies Charcoal pit and Movie theater and many others. That side of Lane is desperate for visible accesible parking . Any ideas to how to add parking on Cedar lane in order to attract viable new businesseses. I am sure there are other property owners willing to flee current situation and would sell their properties. If you drive up Alma Terrace you will find a lot of vacant land in rear of those Cedar Lane buildings so if even one parcel on Cedar Lane is willing to sell a lot of parking spaces would be created, visible and center of town. Would really help new Theater owner survive as well.
Tom Abbott April 12, 2013 at 05:54 PM
Hopefully Walgreen's is not using the same people who selected the location of the last Walgreen's on Cedar Lane. It was unprofitable and so didn't last long. It's true that Walgreen's and similar corporations do research before building new stores. In Walgreen's own words, "We prepare more than 100 pages of research for every site under construction." They also have the resources to weather economic downturns. However, despite this, Walgreen's, like other major retail outlet's, regularly close locations they deem to be unprofitable. Again from Walgreen's, "In fiscal 2012, we opened a total of 212 new locations and acquired 54 locations, for a net increase of 175 after relocations and closings." Simple math suggests 91 locations were closed. A small percentage of the over 8,000 Walgreen locations. Small stores are not the only ones that fail. Recent major retail failures include Syms, Circuit City and CompUSA. Those who open small stores often have the advantage of familiarity with the area. They also can make use of outside consultants to analyze their prospects. The initial investment can also be miniscule as they are often renting space that is suited to what they need. All this has little to do with whether of not Walgreen's plan should or should not be approved.
zizi April 12, 2013 at 10:33 PM
Lisa: We do not need to spend tax money on building a parking lot.. to solve a problem that should be transferred to the individual stores that can be build after completely demolishing what is now Cedar lane stores.... Time for a makeover. Let us make a zoning change for at least cedar lane (cost=$0, allowing up to 8 stories of mixed residential and commercial construction)... than have a press conference inviting all builders and press and telling them Teaneck is open for business (5 days with a smile) and with a propensity to say "yes" to most plans within reason.... (no plans should be accepted involving tax dollars or tax breaks (period)). Than just sit back and relax....... let the great free market takes care of all of the rest....... Developers will buy all those crummy stores and rebuild on their own..... this is the way business should be done..... Any development plans should not be accepted without providing space for parking.... let the developers provide parking as part of their plans.... (it is only in their interest to have parking... if they want to sell/rent the development and make money)...... Teaneck can make history.... have its cake and eat it too... but Teaneck in its current form is not fit to even think about such ideas.... because that would mean work.... for the power brokers... that is a big no no..... ah... 4 day work week.... ah.... free car... free insurance..... ever increasing list of useless project costing millions......blah blah
Art Vatsky April 13, 2013 at 12:32 AM
Well, there is a lot to work with here and I thank the various writers for their comments. First, let's give Councilmember Katz credit for going public with his opinion. Nearly all the other members are silent outside of Council chambers. We don't know what they are thinking. Second, Cedar Lane is not flat. That makes certain locations less attractive than others. The prior Walgreens was not visible from the main activity area on Cedar Lane. Third, there is plenty of parking close to Cedar Lane. It is just that the lots are poorly marked and identified. Some are surrounded by weeds or need repaving or better lighting. Each parking lot should have a name or number with a map board showing where the other lots are (in case they are full). And the signs directing drivers to the lots should be large, bright and friendly. The fact that our township government has not made these improvements disappoints me. They (minus repaving) should be coordinated with the reopening of the movie theater. Teaneck has lost nearly $20 million since 2000 in legal judgments and poor construction and our Council behaves like it never happened. We are paying it all and we have little to show for it. It is partly why we are taxed so much and have little. Those parking lots should have been repaved previously. We seem to be missing a decade's worth of street maintenance.
zizi April 13, 2013 at 02:36 AM
Art: Once again suggestions for spending more of our tax money..... How about selling those lots to companies that will be allowed to build high rise luxury building plus commercial use units on the ground floor... require the developers to build enough parking spaces in return...... That will be a win-win situation for the town (no tax money for re-pavement and signs) and for the developers that they can finally start developing in Teaneck..... Once again the trick is to be business friendly and have an open mind..... taking advantage of the zoning law changes to get all the things done with no cost to the tax payers.....
Lisa Dee April 13, 2013 at 03:09 AM
@ZiZi, If town makes zoning changes i agree with you 100%. The gates will open the developers will pour in. If zoning is changed the building dept. and Fire Dept. have to be re-trained to be business/developer friendly. I don't know if thats possible with this group. They are so power hungry that we might have to clean house and start with a new group who listens to taxpayers. ZiZi if we do not rid of those who are anti-development/anti-business those zoning laws will not change. You know when the theater opens everyone will try it. Soon he will need to raise his prices to re-coup his investment and make a profit. ZiZi, you know with higher prices and without adjacent parking sadly its just a matter of how long he can hold on.
Lisa Dee April 13, 2013 at 03:31 AM
ZiZi, That is an excellent idea! Thats why these guys will never do it. ZiZi, you come up with ideas that make too much financial sense. I repeat for all those in town hall, this is an excellent idea !!! I repeat again, for all those in town hall this is an excellent idea !!! ZiZi, you can have an extra cookie before bed tonight....
zizi April 13, 2013 at 04:31 AM
@Lisa: As a town we should not care who will remain in business and who will survive.... what should matter to us is that we get revenues from these properties...... We should outsource the enforcements of the building codes and completely get rid of the whole department for ever... the costs for the outsourcing should be balanced by revenue generated by the applicants..... The town will save money on salaries/benefits/health insurance/pensions..... law suits... ;) As far as the theater is concerned..... it showed (in its previous life) movies I will never pay to watch..... old... second runs... in a run down place.... It was actually better for the town if they never open it again and just demolish that eyesore and redo the whole complex...... replace it a with high rise building that would house its own parking... so the customers never need an umbrella if they decide to spend their money there..... but this requires thinking differently...... that this town is unable to do for a long time... we the tax payers are paying for their incompetencies.......
Barbara Ley Toffler April 13, 2013 at 02:02 PM
Whoa guys! I'm sure Elie will recall that several years ago concerns were raised about the basic underground substructure in all of Teaneck. We do not know if gas lines, water lines, road substructure etc. can support multistory buildings, etc. many will say , "well it's the developer's job to do the necessary tests and studies to determine that," but what developer is going to spend that money to find out he/she can't build? We in Teaneck cannot now afford to do the necessary analysis---- should have been done years ago------ so let's try to think realistically. We need a long term plan to rebuild Teaneck.
Barbara Ley Toffler April 13, 2013 at 02:12 PM
Please remember that the problem with the new police headquarters was that no one noticed that there were 3 streams running below ground on the site!! Hence the mold and water damage that required expensive rebuilding!! When will we ever learn?
Lisa Dee April 13, 2013 at 07:12 PM
@Barbara, No, our building dept. only abuses taxpayers, of course they knew but when you are spending other peoples money,no problem and the police want their new digs soon. I had a dealing with town engineer many years back something is an issue for my property. My neighbor down the street had same issue has a local business so someone got to town engineer no problem for my neighbor. I confronted engineer and building dept. i was escorted to door. Barbara who ever look passed this and approved project at police station without dealing with this issue, those town employees should be fired this week.
Lisa Dee April 13, 2013 at 07:28 PM
@Barbara, They screwed up that sidewalk deal without a word from our town engineer who is suppose to look over shoulder who else would be qualified. Besides the fiasco in front of Veggie Heaven the rain water drains were all connected from buildings roofs under sidewalk town was assured they would be buried below "frost line" i think 42 inches (not sure) of course no one was watching some of those trees that do not look right are sitting right on top of pipe, Brilliant. No one minding millions of tax dollars being spent. Some property owners have horror stories but they can't go public because they had to disconnect from town system and dispose of rain water with pipes illegally to dispose of rainwater. Otherwise town engineer who did not do his job in the first place will fine you for illegally disposing of rainwater. This town is so disfunctional we can only begin with cleaning house.
Lisa Dee April 13, 2013 at 08:16 PM
@Barbara, You asked about studies before you build. I was sitting in Louies charcoal pit having breakfast in October 2012 while the enviromental company was in his basement drilling holes. Now i know they were collecting information for developer. At one of the BOA meetings the contaminated gas station was brought up and the developer needs NJ state approval before they can move forward. I heard "third hand" the contamination has spread to CVS building but owner of CVS building won't allow testing in his basement, once i heard that i am not buying pizza or going to new diner to eat. The information i am told is available in town hall they suspect contamination has moved 130 feet south. Of course he will not allow testing not good for his property value nor is it appetizing to eat anthing in that building. Like everything else on Cedar Lane the contamination is 30 years old just imagine air quality in CVS building,quality of water etc. do you trust our town? Do you trust CVS property owner? I know i do not trust anyone except an independent third party. If an independent company said its clean i would eat pizza and go to Al's new diner but l like many people value my health.
Barbara Ley Toffler April 13, 2013 at 09:05 PM
Don't know anything about this, but will try to find out.
zizi April 14, 2013 at 02:13 AM
Barbara: why can't we leave the determination whether they can build a high rise to the developers?......
zizi April 14, 2013 at 02:17 AM
@Lisa: Ignorance is bliss...... Beside you live in the most contaminated state in the union....... don't worry about some gasoline contamination dear.... there are other more dangerous contamination sources here in Teaneck...... (not going into details.... since ignorance is bliss) You guys still debating about what should have been done years ago... time to forget all of that... we should only talk about going forward...... We all know who to do that.... throw away all in power now....
zizi April 14, 2013 at 04:59 AM
The ethnic stores cater to a different customer base.... they close their stores because they know they will not be doing business even if they are open.... they own the stores and this is America.... I support their right to close their stores whenever they want..... It is a free country..... Now..... Cedar lane's problem is not ethnic stores or anything else..... The problem is that the infrastructure belongs to 40's and 50's and this is 2103...... it is time to completely redo the whole area..... The way to do it is not use any tax money..... just make zone changes and then just sit back and watch the free market take care of all details...
Esther Sandrof May 20, 2013 at 06:07 PM
People have no problem parking a quarter of a mile away when they shop at Garden State Plaza and yet a block is too much on Cedar Lane.
Esther Sandrof May 20, 2013 at 06:16 PM
Cold Stone Creamery and Panera both failed in Englewood. The same people who refuse to walk a block from the municipal lot to shop downtown will walk miles when they go to the mall.
Lisa Dee May 21, 2013 at 12:38 AM
Esther in Englewood as in Teaneck we are still segregated. Those businesses opened on the other side of the tracks too far from municipal lot, wrong side. Some things never change. Panera Bread and Cold Stone would have been very successful in Englewood they just had wrong location. Today i passed new Al's Charcoal pit like Louies Charcoal pit not a customer. I went to House of Pancakes packed no parking spots. Parking,proximity to parking in downtowns is difference of success or failure. Malls are in part an experience and entertainment so you cannot compare. Thats why Cedar Lane area has three CVS drugstores its a local purchase.

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