Mayor eyes redevelopment zone designation to attract tenants to Foxmoor shops

Mayor Dave Fried used his State of the Township address to call for the Foxmoor Shopping Center to be designated as a redevelopment area.

Mayor Dave Fried used his State of the Township address to call for the Foxmoor Shopping Center to be designated as a redevelopment area.

Mayor Dave Fried says he wants the Township Council to declare the 16-acre Foxmoor Shopping Center an area in need of redevelopment in a legal maneuver aimed at helping the small businesses he said are struggling since the supermarket that anchored the center closed in 2011.

“I think the shop owners have waited long enough,” Fried said in his State of the Township address to the MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce on March 7. “I think it’s time of us to help.”

Fried said establishing a redevelopment zone at the shopping center on Washington Boulevard would provide the township with the economic tools to “attract a really good anchor into that shopping center and then we can turn that shopping center around and give it a facelift.”

Under the New Jersey Local Redevelopment and Housing Law, municipalities that declare an area in need of redevelopment are permitted to offer financial incentives, such as property tax abatements, to spur economic activity. Municipalities also have broad powers in redevelopment zones, including the ability to force the sale of properties through condemnation proceedings.

“I don’t think we will need to condemn, but I definitely want to use redevelopment to make this happen,” Fried said in an interview afterward. “I think we’ve been extremely patient waiting for something to happen.”

The 36-store shopping center is owned by Foxmoor Associates LLC, a subsidiary of the Delaware-based Pettinaro Enterprises, whose president, Greg Pettinaro, did not return a phone message left at his Delaware office seeking comment on the mayor’s announcement. According to a recent Pettinaro marketing brochure, there are nine empty stores in the center totaling 65,778 square feet that are available for lease, including the 48,952 square-foot supermarket space.

Sam Marrazzo operated Marrazzo’s Thriftway in the shopping center for 16 years before selling his business in 2006. Two successive owners were unable to make a go of it and the Thriftway eventually closed for good in late 2011, leaving Robbinsville without a supermarket and the rest of the stores in the shopping center without an anchor tenant to help bring in customers.

“We lost Marrazzo’s some years ago and the tenants of this (shopping center) have been really suffering,” Fried told the business leaders and government officials during the luncheon held at W.W. Grainger. “Without an anchor it’s been very difficult for them to do business.”

A potential complication to any redevelopment designation, however, is the fact that one section of the shopping center is actually in Hamilton. The municipal boundary line runs diagonally through the southwest corner of the property, placing the Friendly’s Restaurant and six adjacent stores in Hamilton and the rest of the shops, including the empty supermarket, in Robbinsville.

“That will be a challenge,” Fried said when asked about this after his speech. “For the portion that is in Hamilton, we will have to work with Hamilton or we may not be able to declare that (section of the shopping center) in the redevelopment zone.”

Fried said redevelopment zone designations are an effective economic tool, noting the township recently was able to attract the giant online retailer Amazon to Robbinsville because of the property tax breaks it could offer in a new redevelopment zone created in a section of the Matrix Business Park near Old York Road. The payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement that the Township Council approved for the Amazon project on lots formerly assessed as farmland will generate about $22 million for the municipality, county and school district over 20 years.

The township has also declared a 90-acre tract on the south side of Route 33 across from the existing Town Center as an area in need of redevelopment in an effort to jump-start economic activity there. Three redevelopers have been named so far for various lots within the Town Center South Redevelopment Area. The first project, a new Walgreens at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Route 33, broke ground a few weeks ago.

State law regarding the establishment of redevelopment areas requires the governing body to first authorize an investigative study of the property involved to see if it meets the legal criteria for the establishment of a redevelopment zone. If it does, the next step is to create a redevelopment plan for the property subject to Planning Board review and a Township Council vote, and then finally the selection of a redeveloper for the project by the Township Council.







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