http://www.courierpostonline.com/story/news/2017/01/06/redevelopment-medford-village-taunton-forge-retail/96200046/

MEDFORD – The Village of Taunton Forge shopping center was once bustling with activity. With a major overhaul underway, it could be again.

Joseph DePetris bought the land nearly 50 years ago and later developed the shopping center, his sons said.

A 35,000-square-foot supermarket space and pharmacy opened in 1978, with a second phase opening about seven years later with more than 50,000 square feet leased to multiple retailers and restaurants.

Sons David and Jim DePetris are at the forefront of a $12 million to $15 million redevelopment project. A groundbreaking ceremony took place in November for a new Rite Aid, which will be relocated on the property at 200 Tuckerton Road, at the corner of Taunton and Tuckerton roads.

“It gives us great pride to be doing this because it means a lot to us,” Jim DePetris said. “Our father, he’ll be 97 in March, and for him to see this rebirth of the center that was his vision, he put it together. It does mean a lot. We’ll maintain ownership of this. It’ll go from generation to generation. We’re very enthused and pleased with how it’s going today.

“What I think is most special about this, when the center was initially built it was really the dominant shopping center in the entire region and was really the go-to place for everyone for many different services, retail stores.”

David DePetris said years ago it was a “one-stop shopping center that had everything the community needed.”

The hope is it will be that again. David DePetris said the location, “central to the population in the area,” gives them the confidence it will be successful.

Longtime tenants David’s Fortune Cookie, Medford Eye Care, Illiano Cucino restaurant (formerly Lamberti’s), Fond Memories and Ruth’s Hallmark will remain, as well as the Rite Aid.

Plans are in the works for a Mexican restaurant, Tacos El Tio. The 5,000-square-foot eatery will have indoor and outdoor seating, and an alcohol license was obtained. Taunton Forge Liquors will be moved to a larger facility in part of the existing supermarket space. The new Rite Aid store and Mexican restaurant are projected to open in the summer.

David DePetris said the goal is to also get a supermarket back at the location as well. Murphy’s Market, which had housed at the shopping center since 1997, closed in 2014. Other supermarkets have been there before.

Jim and David DePetris are also the CEO and principal, respectively, of Legend Properties, a full service commercial real estate company that specializes in retail leasing.

“Over the years, the market changed and there became a lot more competition on Route 70 and Route 73,” Jim DePetris said. “Shopping centers can go either way. They can be redeveloped or you see many older centers that don’t have the opportunity to be redeveloped.”

Medford Township Councilman Jeffrey Beenstock, formerly the mayor, says the center “is an important part of the surrounding community” and the township “looks forward to its development so it will once again provide much-needed amenities to the township’s residents.”

However, some residents and town officials were not thrilled with the tree buffers being trimmed back as much as they were.

Mayor Chuck Watson welcomes new stores and a revitalized center and says the town tries to be business friendly, but wasn’t happy with the amount of trees lost.

“I wasn’t happy for the approval that they got for how many trees they got to take down, but I’m very happy that the center has the potential to do much better than it has been,” Watson said.

David DePetris said the tree buffer was a “hindrance” that cut down on the visibility of the center, which they didn’t have to worry about years ago when the center was the “only game in town.”

“If we had not been able to trim the tree buffer area, we would be in a much different place,” he said.

Celeste E. Whittaker; (856) 486-2437; cwhittaker@gannettnj.com