HAMILTON, NJ — More than a year after the township approved it, the $20 million redesign of the mostly vacant, 244,000-square-foot Suburban Plaza is now able to move forward.

The Route 33 project has been delayed since last summer, when four township residents filed an appeal against the township planning board, which approved ARD Hamilton LLC’s proposal to redevelop the site in March 2013.

Those residents — Paul Cortesini, David Geary, Rudy Margiotti and Thomas Zola — withdrew their appeal last week and construction is slated to begin this summer, ARD Hamilton principal Peter Abrams said today.

The appeal followed criticism that the makeover would bring heavy traffic to the neighborhood leading to noise and congestion.

In expert testimony, a state highway official countered that the redevelopment company was actually going to reduce the size of the mall by 40,000 square feet, resulting in less traffic than if the current mall were as prosperous as it ought to be.

The developers contended in response that opposition was a thinly veiled attempt by organized labor to undermine efforts by Walmart to expand operations by opening new stores.

Walmart is one of the stores slated to occupy the renovated center.

“Our dream of bringing Suburban Plaza back from the dead is now a reality and we couldn’t be more excited,” Abrams said today.

“I’d rather not talk about the case but focus on the future and all of the good that will come from the redevelopment of this blighted property.”

Abrams plans to turn the 24-acre eyesore into “The Court at Hamilton,” tearing down about 200,000 square feet of the existing structure on the site and adding building space for a 160,000-square-foot Walmart, the retailer’s second location in Hamilton, which would be open 24 hours a day and include a grocery and plant store.

The shopping center also will be completely modernized with more entrances and exits onto Route 33 and more contemporary landscaping and stormwater management.

Suburban Plaza has had a checkered history since it was built in the 1970s, but business really floundered when a ShopRite closed its doors at the plaza in 2002.

A series of anchor tenants has come and gone over the last decade, but none had the magnetism to reverse the fortunes of the shopping center, more than 90 percent of which sits vacant.

“I know the term ‘exciting,’ in terms of real estate development, is trite, but this is an exciting application,” Steven Nehmad, an attorney for Abrams, told the planning board in 2012. “What we are proposing to do is redevelop the site in the true sense of the term.”

In appealing the project, Cortesini, Geary, Margiotti and Zola acted as “shills” for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1360, attorney Mark Kaplin argued in a countersuit.

The UFCW has adopted a policy of opposing all Walmart developments because the stores do not employ union workers, Kaplin alleged in the $1.5 million lawsuit against the union.

Planning board attorney Leo Zamparelli today said Abrams had agreed to withdraw the suit in exchange for the withdrawal of the appeal.

“There is no agreement, per se, from the township or planning board’s perspective,” Zamparelli said.

“A settlement implies there’s a quid pro quo, but the township didn’t give anything.”

Contact Mike Davis at (609) 989-5708or mdavis@njtimes.com.