By Alex Lippa
---- — PLAISTOW — Significant changes could be coming to the Plaistow Center Plaza on Route 125 within the next year. Town officials welcome the changes.
Taurus New England Investments, which owns the plaza, presented their vision for the plaza to the Planning Board Wednesday.
“Our goal is to make sure the entire center is fully leased,” said Edward Vydra, director of development for Taurus.
The shopping center has struggled since Shaw’s moved out of the plaza in 2007, but new tenants could soon fill the void. Shaw’s moved to a new location across Route 125.
Vydra announced at the meeting that they are close to an agreement with Aldi’s Supermarket to fill 18,000 square feet of the 48,000-square-foot space Shaw’s occupied.
He said he expected Aldi to move into the space within six to 10 months.
Vydra also said a significant business was close to an agreement to move in to the remainder of the former Shaw’s building, but could not release the name. Town Planner Leigh Komornick said in April that HomeGoods was interested in the location.
In addition to those two businesses, Dollar Tree will move from the north end of the plaza to a new 12,000-square-foot building, which will share a wall with Aldi.
Once Dollar Tree moves, the plan is to demolish the 78,090-square-foot section between Papa Gino’s and the current Dollar Tree location. The space is vacant for all but a couple of months a year when Halloween Express takes one of the open spots.
“The whole frontage will basically get opened up,” Vydra said.
He said he hopes to replace those buildings with new buildings by 2015.
The plan is expected to be officially filed to the town within the next several weeks.
Vydra said the reason for the change is that most retailers are looking to stay away from strip malls.
“Less retailers are looking for strips and more are looking for a compact space,” he said. “They want a little independence from the other stores. We are responding to their need.”
Plaistow officials have been trying to reinvigorate the plaza for years.
“The plaza is an important piece of retail space in the town,” Selectmen’s Chairman Robert Gray said. “It’s the first plaza that you encounter when entering the town on Route 125 and it is an important part of our commercial base for taxes.”
Gray said he had no immediate concerns with the plan as it was presented to him.
In addition to Shaw’s, Petco and Northeast Rehabilitation are among the businesses which have moved out of the plaza in the last five years.
Taurus is also considering a change to the south side of the plaza where Live Free or Diner operates.
“The stores are a little narrower than we’d like to see,” he said. “Over time, we’d like to basically rebuild that section.”
Jim Palmer, the owner of Live Free or Diner, said it was hard to visualize the changes, but he would be open to it.
“We’re growing pretty nicely, this is something I’d be happy with,” he said.
But he is most looking forward to new businesses coming in which would bring more traffic to his diner.
“This (plaza) has been horrible for a while,” he said. “It would absolutely be a good thing to get these businesses in.”
Things are already starting to look up. Walgreens is expected to open at the front of the plaza next month.