Page 23 - RENJ June 2021
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 during COVID-19. So that’s a strong baseline.”
The Walmart previously at the site was expanded by 90,000 square feet last year to become a freestanding Walmart Supercenter. The existing Marshalls has been moved to a more prominent location, along with new retailers Burlington, Ulta Beauty, Five Below and DSW and previous tenant Ashley Furniture. New food options at the front of the site include Starbucks, Five Guys, Panda Express and Chipotle Mexican Grill.
A spot had been planned for Barnes & Noble until the bookstore chain
been involved in other, smaller-scale redevelopments in New Jersey and other states.
He said the Ledgewood project is a more complete de-malling than he’s seen at other sites, which generally revamp the interior. For instance, Cole Schotz worked on the updating of the Bergen Town Center in Paramus, which added restaurants and middle-market retailers to the “classic old mall,” Albrecht said.
Other malls in the area have changed as well, he said. Paramus Park Mall changed its traditional retail mix by adding a Stew Leonard’s, and the planned redevelopment of Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus includes a residential element as
a “hedge for the retail risk” and to provide customers.
Albrecht finds the Ledgewood project interesting for several reasons, including “the fact that they went from, essentially, retail to retail, because a lot of what we’ve seen has been retail to mixed-use.” The old Ledgewood Mall was “like a who’s who of department stores and bigger boxes that have gone down,” such
as W.T. Grant, Rickel, Jamesway and Stern’s.
“They moved from a department store-based, enclosed mall, which was pretty unsightly, to really transforming it to something that serves that market,” including discount clothing retailers, middle-market furniture and quick-serve food options.
“It seems like a really solid, internet- resistant concept,” Albrecht said.
It likely helped that the project, which featured March Associates Construction as its construction manager, was granted an exception
It was a loss, but long-term, “some tremendous options are out there.”
Walmart, which offers a garden center, pharmacy, vision services and groceries, was “great to work with in terms of moving a plan forward,” as was the township, Cocoziello said.
He said it was important to have the store “open up and be developed in the middle of this pandemic and have it be positioned going forward coming out of the pandemic as a tremendous amenity, not only in Ledgewood but in Roxbury Township.”
Having the Walmart is a “home run” for Ledgewood Commons, said Gary Albrecht, co-chair of the real estate department at law firm Cole Schotz PC in Hackensack. His firm didn’t work on the project but has
it would be permanently closing that location. Cocoziello said there are a couple of possibilities for the space.
The Shops at Ledgewood Commons project has included relocating an existing Marshalls store to a more prominent location, with the addition of new food options at the front of the site such as Starbucks, Five Guys, Panda Express and Chipotle Mexican Grill.
 Gary Albrecht
to Gov. Phil Murphy’s pandemic shutdown of nonessential construction. That prevented cost issues due to delays, he said. Backing from the community was important as well: “It sounds like Roxbury was in favor of the project, which is huge,” he added.
And because the project is a joint venture, that eases the financial risk. Albrecht said he’s seen instances where an owner started redeveloping a property and realized it needed
to bring in another party to take on some of the financial load.
Cocoziello, of Advance Realty,
said the mall had had multiple vacancies when the firm took over, and Ledgewood Commons now offers more tenants than before. He estimated that the site is 95 percent occupied. Construction is still
underway on the freestanding spaces in front, but the main part of the center is operational. The remaining work is expected to be completed by September, he said.
Renovating an existing retail site in this way is a good bet, Hughes said, especially since it’s easier to upgrade an older property than to build a new facility in a green field, which risks opposition.
He said the pandemic has accelerated the de-malling trend, calling it “gasoline on the fire” of the bricks- and-mortar meltdown. Changes
that might have happened three or four years from now have instead happened in less than a year.
“The future arrived much sooner than we thought it would,” he said. RE
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