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First Grow N.J. headquarters project breaks ground in Mahwah

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A rendering of the project, on MacArthur Boulevard, in Mahwah.
A rendering of the project, on MacArthur Boulevard, in Mahwah.

Ascena Retail Group Inc. and Dress Barn Inc. broke ground today on their new North American headquarters in Mahwah, the first corporate headquarters in the state to receive incentives under the Economic Development Authority's Grow New Jersey Assistance Program.

Ascena, which operates clothing stores under the Lane Bryant, Maurice's, Dress Barn, Catherines and Justice brands, will move in February from its current headquarters in Suffern, N.Y., to a 145,000-square-foot office building on MacArthur Boulevard. The building will be completely renovated, and will be connected by an enclosed bridge to a new 50,000-square-foot building.

"The decision by Ascena Retail Group and Dress Barn to make this long-term investment in New Jersey demonstrates how Governor (Chris) Christie's economic policies continue to generate business investment and job creation in the Garden State," said Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who attended this morning's groundbreaking. "The company's new North American headquarters facility will bring more than 400 jobs to Mahwah, further advancing economic development in the area's surrounding communities."

In order to be eligible for the tax credit, a company must make a minimum capital investment of $20 million, provide at least 100 full-time employee positions with health benefits under a group health plan, and the award of the credit must be a material factor in creating or retaining the minimum number of employees.

In its filing with the EDA, the companies said they would create 405 jobs in New Jersey as a result of the tax credit.

"The tax incentives were the major reason we decided to come to New Jersey," said Jeff Gerstel, president of Dress Barn. "Without them, the cost would have been prohibitive."
Gerstel said the company was looking for a bigger space to accommodate both Ascena and Dress Barn's growth, and wanted to stay close enough to Suffern to keep all of its current employees.

"When we visited the site, we fell in love with it," Gerstel said. "It was like buying a house, when you find the right place you know it. It's a campus with trees and grass, and the windows were a big appeal. We're in an industrial building now."

The company will entirely overhaul the existing building's mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, and plans to achieve LEED certification for the property. LEED, short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the U.S. green building standard. Jones Lang LaSalle will be project manager for the renovation and expansion, and will provide energy and sustainability services to assist Ascena in obtaining LEED Gold certification. The buildings must maintain at least LEED Silver certification to be eligible for incentives under Grow New Jersey.

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