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Mall Expansion Plans Hope to Bring More Shoppers

Bloomingdale's is giving up some of its ability to expand.

With plans formulating to build a new restaurant at the Bridgewater Commons Mall, representatives with the mall are requesting a change in the deal with the township that would allow them to transfer land promised to the department stores.

Mall attorney Kevin Coakley spoke before the township council Thursday to request a change in the redevelopment agreement between the two entities concerning space reserved for expanding by the three department stores at the mall, Bloomingdale's, Lord & Taylor and Macy’s.

According to Coakley, provisions were made in the agreement to allow these department stores to add on to their buildings, 40,000 square feet for two of the stores and 50,000 for one.

“And there is 3,500 square feet allowed for expansion in the non-department store areas,” he said.

Basically, Coakley said, Bloomingdale’s has agreed to give up some of its expansion rights and turn the space over to the mall for future development.

“That’s where the municipality comes in,” he said. “There is a proposal to reduce Bloomingdale’s expansion space by 10,000 feet, and increase the mall by that much to make it 13,500 square feet left for redevelopment."

Coakley said this is actually the first of three amendments the mall will be requesting to the agreement to fully reduce the expansion space for Bloomingdale’s from 40,000 square feet to 10,000.

“The store is not likely to expand, but would like to see traffic to the mall increase to indirectly help them,” he said.

Coakley said Bloomingdale’s is requesting to go step by step with several amendments, rather than giving up the 30,000 square feet of allowed expansion all at once.

“If it’s useful, it is likely they will release more space in the future, and we will request you approve this change again,” he said.

While this obviously benefits the mall in bringing more retailers, Coakley said, there is an advantage to the municipality as well in terms of rent payments.

The mall currently has a rent sharing agreement with the municipality. There is a baseline rent, Coakley said, but when the rent increases, the municipality shares in the percentage of that and receives some funding.

Coakley said there is a three-year baseline with the mall.

“Once the space is occupied, after three years, if the rent goes up, the municipality starts to share in those increases,” he said. “There is the same percentage of rent sharing, 10 percent over-age rent.”

The council approved the resolution to allow for the amendment to the agreement with the mall, and representatives from the mall will be going before the planning board soon for site plan approval.

At this point, Coakley said, the space is being planned for a new restaurant at the mall, but he declined to comment on which one.

“It’s the hope that this is the first of several arrangements,” he said. “Department stores are the lifeblood and bane of shopping malls. They draw the customers and in some ways call the shots.”

Members of the council said they believe this will create a win-win situation for all involved.

“I see this as a win for everybody,” said councilman Allen Kurdyla. “It is a chance for the retail space to create new activity, and a win for the township to create new revenue.”

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