By Megan K. Scott, Correspondent
GARWOOD, NJ — Singles, doubles and triples are coming to Garwood.
Construction is under way on a new Wendy’s restaurant at the site of the former Burger King on North Avenue. When finished, the modernized fast food restaurant will feature an outdoor patio area with 16 seats, a reconfigured parking lot, an updated indoor dining area and a menu of traditional favorites such as chili, the Frosty and healthier items like fresh salads and wraps.
The restaurant is scheduled to open in the fall.
“It doesn’t look like the traditional Wendy’s,” said Laura Butrico, president of The Rawson Group, which owns and operates 20 Wendy’s restaurants in central New Jersey and Staten Island, N.Y. “It’s much nicer. We’re using the same footprint as the Burger King, but it will be a complete remodel. New interior and exterior and a beautiful outdoor patio area.”
The Garwood location will be the company’s 21st restaurant. The Rawson Group also has Wendy’s restaurants in Clark, Watchung, Union and Plainfield.
When the Burger King closed in spring 2017, the location seemed like a “natural choice,” Butrico said.
“Garwood’s right in the middle of a bunch of our restaurants,” she said. “This is our stomping ground so to speak.”
The opening of the Garwood Wendy’s will restore the number of fast food restaurants in Garwood to three. The others are the McDonald’s across the street from Wendy’s and Taco Bell on South Avenue. However, the new restaurants means the potential loss of 34 commuter parking spaces.
“We haven’t even looked at that yet,” Butrico said, when asked about the possibility of leasing spaces to the borough for commuters. “There’s no plan to be anything but a Wendy’s.”
In June 2015, the borough signed an agreement with Burger King to lease those spaces at $125 per spot, per year. The borough charged $75 per quarter to residents and $100 per quarter for non-residents for each. All were ultimately leased out, according to borough clerk Christina Ariemma.
When Burger King closed, Garwood Metal, which owns the property, did not renew the borough’s lease and had no interest in continuing the arrangement, Councilman Joe Sarno, the Parking Committee chairman, said in a recent phone interview. The money collected was refunded.
The loss of those spaces has amplified the borough’s parking shortage, Sarno said.
In September 2015, Garwood introduced a long-debated, residential-permit parking ordinance, expanding areas of residential-permit parking from Anchor Place, Myrtle Avenue and Willow Avenue to Cedar, Center, East, North Maple, North Oak, South Oak and West streets, Winslow Place and Second and Third avenues. Parking on those streets is limited to two hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Monday through Friday.
The borough recently stepped up parking enforcement on the north side of town, Sarno said, the result of residents complaining that there was no place to park.
“We addressed that issue,” he said. “But where do commuters go?”
He added that even ShopRite no longer wants to have the commuter spots on the far eastern border of its lot.
Garwood Planning Board member Bill Nierstedt agreed.
“If we’re going to prohibit them from parking on Second, Third and Fourth, can we provide some other place?
“It’s a loss,” said Nierstedt, a licensed planner who has long advocated for more train stops in Garwood. “The borough was glad when Burger King agreed to provide those spots for commuters because those spots mean more people using the train out of Garwood and, consequently, more train stops for Garwood. NJ Transit links parking spaces to stops. More spaces means the possibility of more stops.”
Mayor Charles Lombardo said in an email that he is encouraged about the new Wendy’s. He added that Garwood’s fast food restaurants are appropriately placed on the borough’s main thoroughfares to bring local and surrounding residents to the town.
“I believe Wendy’s will be a great addition to Garwood,” Lombardo said. “It will bring a new fresh look to the property and customers for all the other great businesses to enjoy.”
Butrico is eager as well.
“We’re really excited to get into Garwood,” she said. “We think it’s going to be a lovely addition and a great restaurant.”