State legislators want to tweak one of New Jersey's oldest redevelopment laws to give a shot in the arm to vacant and underused malls and corporate office parks.
Under the proposed measure, Assembly Bill 1700, municipalities can designate these place as “areas in need of redevelopment,” a status that allows them to provide economic incentives to attract investment, business and jobs.
These incentives include payments in lieu of property taxes. Under the designation, towns can use eminent domain in areas in need of redevelopment so a private entity can redevelop the property.
The proposal allows any mall, shopping plaza or professional office park to be eligible for the designation if they have less than 50 percent occupancy for at least a year.
Assemblyman Ron Dancer, R-12th District, a sponsor of A1700, pointed to the trend of e-commerce and online shopping as one of the drivers behind the increase in mall vacancies.
“The landscape of our state is littered with abandoned, crumbling and once-thriving retail centers and office parks,” Dancer said. “These buildings have become a significant burden on surrounding communities, driving taxes up and property values down. We need to help towns stimulate redevelopment and repurpose stranded assets in this era of online shopping.”
Under current law the state has eight categories under which a municipality can officially designate an area as in need of redevelopment, including if the buildings are unsafe and unsanitary, have been left abandoned to the point that they are unsalvageable or if the buildings were damaged beyond repair by a natural disaster.
If A1700 is enacted, vacant malls and office parks would become the ninth category. The Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee approved the measure Thursday in a 12-0 vote.