Plans for a new upscale Italian restaurant – Brio Tuscan Grille – at Quaker Bridge Mall were approved last night (Monday, Jan. 14) by the Lawrence Township Planning Board.
The new eatery will be built onto the exterior of the mall, along the Route 1 side, between the J.C. Penney department store and the Cheesecake Factory restaurant that opened last September.
Brio is part of an Ohio-based chain that recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and operates over 100 restaurants around the country. The nearest Brio is at Freehold Raceway Mall. Others can be found in Cherry Hill, Marlton and Wayne.
The interior of Brio’s new restaurant in Lawrence Township will occupy 7,431-square feet, with seating for 220 patrons. Seating for another 55 diners will be available outside in a screened-in patio covering an additional 1,100-square feet. There will be a full-service bar.
Brio restaurants offer lunch and dinner, as well as brunch on the weekends. Hours of operation are typically 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday,
Offering menus that include soups, salads, sandwiches, pastas, chicken, veal, seafood, steaks and kids’ fare like pizza and mac ‘n’ cheese, the average per-person lunch totals about $19 and dinner around $30, planning board members were told.
The new restaurant, which is expected to create between 100 and 150 new jobs, will have a “warm, inviting” look to it that – through the use of stucco, cast stone, Spanish roof tiles and canvas awnings – will evoke the Tuscany region of Italy.
Planning board members spent considerable time grilling representatives of Brio and Simon Property Group – the company that owns Quaker Bridge Mall – about signage because the number of signs proposed for the new restaurant exceeded the allowable number under the township’s sign ordinance.
After lengthy discussion, in exchange for the board’s approval of the plans, the applicants agreed to remove four decorative signs – Italian words like “Insalata” and “Martini,” intended to accentuate the eatery’s Tuscany look – from the exterior of the building and replace them with decorations devoid of text.
Board members were told the new Brio restaurant could be built and ready to open for business by sometime in November.
The board last night also agreed to a package of signs for the overall Quaker Bridge Mall complex.
Among these were several directional signs with arrows pointing to the mall’s anchor stores – J.C. Penney, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s and Sears, as well as a large “QB” intended to highlight the mall’s main entrance next to Cheesecake Factory, and a new sign that will replace the mall’s existing sign along Route 1, albeit using the old sign’s framework.
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Also last night, the planning board approved plans by Public Service Electric & Gas Co. (PSE&G) to upgrade its “switching station” on Bunker Hill Road by installing a new electrical capacitor bank mounted on five permanent trailers, along with a lightning mast and “emergency” diesel generator.
The facility, which has existed on the site since the 1960s, is the main source of electricity for the majority of Lawrence Township, board members were told. The facility also is important because it links a PSE&G power transmission line with another transmission line operated by Jersey Central Power & Light, allowing the two utilities to share power if needed.
The board gave its approval after PSE&G representatives explained why the upgrade is needed, testified that the work will have no negative impacts on adjacent properties and agreed to plant additional landscaping to further shield the facility from the view of neighbors. A question about whether a portion of the work will infringe on a wetland area will be addressed by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The upgrade work is expected to take about three months to complete.