The Sears department store, located in Watchung, Somerset County at 1640 Route 22, and the Sears Auto Center, located across Terrill Road at 1660 Route 22, are among the 20 locations across the country to be included on a list published by Sears, Roebuck & Company last month of stores that will be shuttered, according to CNBC.
The Watchung location is one of the few freestanding Sears department stores in New Jersey. Most locations are anchor stores at shopping malls. It was originally located a few miles away at the corner of West Front Street and Central Avenue in Plainfield, Union County, according to Plainfield Today, and moved to Somerset County in 1956 after 27 years in Plainfield, according to the Plainfield Public Library. Now, the Sears store is scheduled to close in September, The Courier-News reported.
There are already plans to replace the department store and the auto center with new developments. According to a legal notice, the 12.47 acre department store lot is set to be demolished, and a plaza with “a series of retail and restaurant establishments” would be built on the premises. The plans by Seritage Growth Properties, of Midtown Manhattan, call for the “four ‘pads’ for retail or restaurant use and two larger buildings with stores,” along with 462 parking spaces, according to The Courier-News. The company’s plans were granted Preliminary Site Plan approval by the Watchung Planning Board during its meeting on June 20th.
Last year, as reported by The Courier-News, there were plans to keep and expand the Sears Auto Center building and convert it into 10 retail spaces. However, those plans have now changed, since according to a legal notice, Seritage Growth Properties is now planning to demolish the building and redevelop the 5.67 auto center property.
The company has applied to the Watchung Planning Board for Preliminary and Final Site Plan approval to construct a movie theater on the premises, which will be the second movie theater along the Route 22 corridor after the AMC in Mountainside, Union County.