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Coming soon: Sayreville's mall for millennials

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A rendering of the 440 acres of redevelopment at Luxury Point at Sayreville.
A rendering of the 440 acres of redevelopment at Luxury Point at Sayreville. - (COURTESY O'NEILL PROPERTIES GROUP)

Brian O'Neill has a vision for the brick-and-mortar retailer of the future, one that embraces technology in a time when technology has disrupted the shopping experience.

Eye-popping, full-building LED signs and media towers. Digital shopping kiosks. Bar codes that patrons can scan with their smartphones as they walk from store to store.

It's actually more than a vision. It's the plan O'Neill has for the sprawling mall and outdoor shopping complex that will anchor Luxury Point at Sayreville, the long-awaited, 8 million-square-foot mega project along the Garden State Parkway.

“We are the iPad of malls and outdoor shopping,” said O'Neill, founder and chairman of O'Neill Properties Group. “The millennial, the customer of today — they run their lives digitally, so if we want those customers, we have to run our lives digitally and we have to build our facilities digitally.”

For the King of Prussia, Pa.-based developer, that vision is closer to being realized after years of planning and complex environmental cleanup at its 440-acre, waterfront project site. On May 16, state officials awarded the project a $223 million tax-reimbursement grant under the state's Economic Redevelopment and Growth program.

The pledge allows the firm to finance the infrastructure for the site and move ahead with the highly visible project, O'Neill said. By year's end, he expects to break ground on the first 700,000 square feet of outdoor retail, including a store for Bass Pro Shops, and the first piece of its 2,000-unit residential component.

The project is expected to cost more than $2 billion, including remediation and development costs, O'Neill said. And the firm projects Luxury Point will generate some 5,400 construction jobs and 3,900 permanent jobs upon full build-out.

Completing the project would mark a transformation for a site that has been hard to miss as it lay fallow for years, sitting under 24 lanes of traffic on the Parkway and Routes 9 and 35. It served for decades as the home to a National Lead paint pigment manufacturing facility, which left behind untold contamination from dumped chemicals and other waste along the Raritan Bay.

In fact, state officials recently called it the “single largest Brownfield redevelopment project in New Jersey's history.” Remediation has taken place for some 15 years, and the property spent years caught in a web of litigation involving National Lead and government agencies at all levels.

Remediation is “wrapping up” this year, making way for “the first omnichannel, digitally inspired mall and shopping venue” that uses more digital signage than Times Square and Las Vegas combined, he said. And why not? Some 400,000 drivers pass the site each day, a steady audience for the digital facades and media towers planned for the property.

“Every retailer is talking about driving sales into their stores — and mobile and e-commerce — but nobody has ever used real estate to accomplish that,” O'Neill said.

Plans call for O'Neill to develop the mall portion with Taubman Co., the Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based retail developer and operator of the Mall at Short Hills.

Real estate and retail observers have watched the project for years, so there's no shortage of anticipation. Jason Pierson, a Marlboro-based retail broker, said there are now tenant deals in the works and the potential for more as buzz continues to build.

And that buzz will only grow as O'Neill starts work on the Bass Pro store, an anchor that “really validates the project (and) … just brings in a critical mass of people.”

“Now that it's really starting to move and progress — and it's real — everybody's going to start to take a hard look at it,” said Pierson, president of Pierson Commercial Real Estate.

He said the location is another key ingredient. With nearby connections to the New Jersey Turnpike, Interstate 287 and other major highways, the site is less than an hour from large swaths of New Jersey, and even Brooklyn and Staten Island, N.Y.

Throw in the fact that retailers, quite simply, are thirsty for new locations.

“There's really a lack of new construction in New Jersey and a lack of inventory,” he said. “And there's an abundance of retailers that are out there looking for space.”

Luxury Point at a glance

3,000,000 square feet of retail and entertainment
40,000 square feet of office
1,424 luxury apartments
750 hotel rooms
576 waterfront townhomes
2 marinas

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Joshua Burd

Joshua Burd

Josh Burd covers real estate, economic development and sports and entertainment. Before joining NJBIZ in 2011, he spent four years as a metro reporter in Central Jersey. His email is joshb@njbiz.com and he is @JoshBurdNJ on Twitter.

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Comments


skeptic said:
this is a 10 year project, I can't see O'neill hanging around that long

June 2, 2014 1:07 pm

Mike said:
Millennials are going to save the economy? They need a JOB first.

May 30, 2014 11:38 pm

jakorama said:
I don't get it. I'm a millennial. Using my phone to pay at a store is no longer impressive, and it will certainly not draw me out of my life, into traffic, in God awful Sayreville (speaking from experience as I lived there for 2 years and it made me realize why the rest of the country hates New Jersey so much) especially when I can literally buy something via my phone without it affecting my day to day. The smart phone is the high tech mall, this project is ridiculous.

May 28, 2014 10:58 pm

NJ Bust said:
Bass Pro shops is supposed to save Atlantic City and the American Dream project and now Sayreville. How many people fish in this state? If somebody doesn't figure out NJ's tax problem, there won't be anyone left for the GSP traffic jam.

May 28, 2014 8:52 am

bud U. said:
Isn't this the site of the former National Lead factory? Is this a "brown fields" site?

May 27, 2014 4:27 pm

C DePrizio said:
As a Sayreville resident, I am excited for the employment opportunities it will bring to our town.

May 27, 2014 9:39 am

Mike said:
This is going to be the worst project in New Jersey's long history. As a millenial, I have no interest in going to yet another mall, in a swamp no less, with more big box type retail. Why not use the $223 million grant to promote residential and commercial development where people actually want to live - in our urban areas, downtown. This project is atrocious, will cause unfathomable traffic issues in that area and will probably be destroyed by the next Superstorm Sandy anyway. What a waste of money, such a shame.

May 27, 2014 9:23 am

NJ Bust said:
Another American Dream fiasco in the making. Nationally, retail is getting replaced by the internet & Mr. O'Neil will build the largest project to go bust before it can open. He doesn't have retail experience and the banks will finance it anyway. 400,00 cars per day will drive past the site so they can get to rebuilding their houses on the beach or to Atlantic City. Check O'Neil's track record, he has failed before and will repeat.

May 27, 2014 9:10 am

mrdirt said:
Just go to the malls, Woodbridge, Menlo Park, you see many empty stores, or just drive down route 9, 35 and see all the "This Space Available" will subdivide etc. How can Millenials save the day? The Millenials consist oflargest group not working or if they are its in low wage, part time jobs, and on top of that the debt of student loans. 1 in 4 adults between 18-32 in NJ are still living at home either unemployed or underemployed. On the other hand Millenials are smarter they will go to the stores and then using their smartphones/Ipads, check prices, and then can (while still physically in store) order the merchandise online if the price is less expensive. If I can do it at 65, I m sure the millenials can.

May 27, 2014 8:41 am



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