Township officials are expecting hundreds of residents to attend the 11 a.m. event, which they hope will signal the beginning of an economic revival for the Browns Mills business district, not to mention good produce.
"We've been waiting about 20 years for this event," said Township Mayor Thalia Kay.
The township's current supermarket, a 15,000-square-foot Acme, is small and antiquated for Pemberton's 34,000 residents, she said. It was built about 30 years ago when the township was a summer destination with a population of 9,000, she said.
"Basically 80 percent of our food dollars have left Pemberton Township over the past eight years, because people go shopping elsewhere," said Township Administrator Michael Spurgeon.
Not only will the new 45,000-square-foot 24-hour Acme better serve residents' food needs, he said, it will infuse as much as $10 million in tax
dollars into Pemberton's economy - valuable tax relief for residents, who support about 90 percent of the township's tax base. It is projected to open in January 1996 and will provide more than 100 jobs, Kay said.
In addition to the supermarket, the owners of Acme, American Stores Properties, of Malvern, Pa., have received permits for a total of 165,000 square feet of adjoining commercial space, which could bring even more money and jobs to long-stagnant Browns Mills, Spurgeon said.
Kay blames past administrations for the stagnation as well as the threat of base closures at nearby Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Base, which loomed until this summer, when their survival was finally assured by a federal commmission.
"I think that weighed rather heavily," she said. "Nobody wanted to invest in a town that was just going to roll up and die."
With the bases safe for now, activity is picking up in Pemberton, evidenced by the supermarket, construction on a new Burger King, and various incentive
plans to induce downtown development.
In addition, Pemberton is rooting for pending state legislation that could designate it an Urban Enterprise Zone, allowing it to keep state sales tax to
reinvest within the township.