The Case Of Stafford’s “Phantom Walgreens”

This building, which looks very much like a Walgreens, is not a Walgreens. (Photo by Chris Lundy)

MANAHAWKIN – If you live in the area, perhaps you’ve noticed the huge empty building on the corner of Nautilus Drive and Route 72 near Southern Ocean Medical Center. This building, intended to be a Walgreens at its origin, has been unoccupied and left vacant with the lights on 24 hours a day for the last two years. However, new life will be breathed into it soon.

According to Jim Moran, Stafford Township Administrator, the building was constructed around three years ago by property developers, The Fried Group. The building was meant to become a Walgreens; Walgreens even signed a lease agreement for some unknown number of years to occupy this building. However, Walgreens never moved in. The Fried Group is not unfamiliar to the area and has developed other properties in Stafford such as Community Surgical Supply. Moran noted that The Fried Group has been marketing to other potential buyers.

“Walgreens never consummated the lease agreement,” said Moran. As to why this is the case, he did not have the answer.

Moran said that Walgreens has been under contract for the lease with the building, which is why it is still empty after all these years. If you are near the building, you might notice that the lights inside and outside the structure are constantly on. Asked who might be paying for this constant electricity, he said that he is unaware of the specific terms of the lease agreement.

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The Stafford Pharmacy, which is a neighbor of the building, would have felt competition from a Walgreens moving in. (Photo by Chris Lundy)

Walgreens Corporation did not respond to inquiries.

Directly across from the building on Nautilus Dr. is The Stafford Pharmacy. This pharmacy has been in business since 1983, according to Registered Pharmacist Manager Thomas Jenco, who has worked there for the past 34 years.

“I don’t think our customers were worried,” he said, in reference to the original news of Walgreens’ potential undertaking.

Like most, Jenco noted that he was not entirely sure of what is to become of the space, but that they are certainly happy that another pharmacy has not moved in as of yet.

In recent months, however, a new undertaking for the building has been in the works, according to Anne Green, Public Relations Manager for Southern Ocean Medical Center.

“Hackensack Meridian Health secured a long term lease in 2017 for the building to further develop Southern Ocean Medical Center’s medical services to meet the future needs of the community,” said Green. “Planning is underway and the timeline for adding services is 2018.”

There a few details as to the exact purpose that the building will serve for the hospital, but we will finally see this vacant building being used as Southern Ocean Medical Center expands its services this year.