The statehouse in Trenton — file photo
By Joshua Burd
Gov. Phil Murphy has signed into law a bill that could help resurrect so-called stranded assets across the state, allowing municipalities to provide new redevelopment incentives for vacant or underused shopping malls and office parks.
The measure, which unanimously passed the Assembly and Senate in June, expands the eligibility criteria for designating certain areas as being in need of redevelopment. The designation, a powerful tool under the state’s redevelopment law, would apply to areas that contain a building or buildings used, or previously used, for commercial, retail, shopping malls or plazas, office parks, manufacturing or industrial purposes if the building or buildings have had significant vacancies for at least two consecutive years.
The legislation could be another tool for helping local officials and developers revitalize the state’s abundance of suburban office parks, malls and other properties that are no longer functional or in locations that are seen as desirable to the private sector. Stakeholders have already made strides in doing so in recent years, bringing new revenue to municipal coffers, but New Jersey still has a host of such properties that are in need of being rescued.
“Municipalities will now have a stronger tool to fix abandoned retail centers and office parks that clutter up the landscape,” said Assemblyman Ron Dancer, a Republican based in Ocean County, who is one of the bill’s primary sponsors. “These buildings have become a significant burden on surrounding communities, driving taxes up and property values down. On the other hand, improving commercial properties will lead to higher tax revenues and create local jobs.”
Other primary sponsors of the bill include Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Assemblyman Clinton Calabrese, along with senators Nilsa Cruz-Perez and Sandra B. Cunningham. Co-sponsors include Carol Murphy, Gregory McGuckin, Daniel Benson, Robert Karabinchak, Serena DiMaso, Pamela Lampitt and Nancy Pinkin in the Assembly and Sen. Troy Singleton.
The state has taken other measures to address stranded commercial assets. Late last year, the Economic Development Authority launched a new grant program aimed at finding solutions for such properties, offering grants of up to $50,000 for local governing bodies, counties or county redevelopment agencies to study potential redevelopment and other options.