Court filing says 345-unit apartment building would rise near Boscov’s

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Santa Claus has arrived at the Cherry Hill Mall, this time with measures intended to curb the spread of the coronvirus

Cherry Hill Courier-Post

MOORESTOWN – Three apartment buildings and a hotel could be developed at Moorestown Mall under a proposed agreement between the township and the shopping center’s owner.

The four-story apartment buildings would hold up to 1,065 homes, with 213 units to be affordable housing, according to a court filing.

The buildings would rise, along with a 112,000-square-foot hotel, in a three-phase development at the 84-acre mall property, the filing says.

The first phase calls for a 375-unit apartment building in a parking lot between Boscov’s and Nixon Drive, according to a concept plan that accompanies the proposed order. The 412,500-square-foot building would hold 75 affordable homes and a parking structure.

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The initial phase also envisions the hotel in a parking lot off Lenola Road, near the rear of the shopping center.

Those projects would require no demolition of the mall, according to the concept plan.

A concept plan for Moorestown Mall’s redevelopment shows an apartment building, left, between Boscov’s and Nixon Drive. A hotel would rise off Lenola Road. (Photo: Photo provided)

But the second phase would put a 345-unit apartment building on an area that includes the former Lord + Taylor department store and an adjacent parking lot.

The third phase calls for development of a similar building at a site that includes the former Sears store and a parking lot off Route 38.

The plans are outlined in a proposed consent order filed Friday before Superior Court Judge Paula Dow in Mount Holly.

The proposal was reached after mediation between the township, mall owner PREIT and Fair Share Housing Center, a Cherry Hill-based nonprofit that advocates for low-income residents.

Dow ordered the talks earlier this year after PREIT objected to a township plan to provide affordable housing there.

A proposed zoning overlay that received initial approval from township council in January would have required the mall’s demolition, according to PREIT.

The proposed agreement would “address a significant portion of the township’s ‘unmet need’ for affordable housing,” according to the filing.

It says the apartment buildings in the second and third phases would hold a total of 137 affordable units. Those buildings “may or may not” have parking structures.

“Phase One can stand on its own without the need for future development of Phase Two and Three,” it notes.

It adds the later phases are “more conceptual at this point” and “shall proceed at developer’s sole discretion.”

The proposed “affordable housing settlement agreement” also says the parties have recognized “at least initially, the existing portion of the mall identified for Phase Three … may be repurposed for medical office or use to be permitted by the redevelopment plan.”

PREIT, which is posted large losses in recent years, has been seeking to develop homes and hotels at some of its malls.

The Philadelphia-based firm noted development prospects for Moorestown Mall earlier this month, when it sought bankruptcy court protection from creditors while it reorganizes its finances.

PREIT’s bankruptcy filing noted agreements to sell parcels at the Moorestown site to NRP Property, an apartment developer based in Cleveland, and to hotel builder Briad Group of Livingston, Essex County.

Those firms have not commented on their plans.

Under the proposed order, the township would designate the mall as an “area in need of redevelopment” and then would adopt a non-condemnation redevelopment plan for the site.

The agreement would provide a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, for the hotel and apartment buildings.

It said the tax break is appropriate “given the significant costs and improvements associated with the overall development and Phase One development, including the production of a structured parking lot.”

The first phase would also include “not-yet-built” pad sites with pre-existing approvals for combined construction of almost 34,000 square feet.

PREIT owns more than 20 million square feet of retail space in nine states, including the Cherry Hill Mall and Cumberland Mall in Vineland.

The firm has been hit hard by a harsh environment for traditional retailers, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among other setbacks, Moorestown Mall in recent years has seen closings for a 170,591-square-foot Sears store and a 121,200-square-foot Lord + Taylor.

PREIT previously purchased a 200,000-square-foot site that had been occupied by Macy’s. It has largely restocked that area with new tenants.

Jim Walsh is a free-range reporter who’s been roaming around South Jersey for decades. His interests include crime, the courts, economic development and being first with breaking news. Reach him at [email protected] or look for him in traffic.

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