The state’s Economic Development Authority is ramping up a program it created last year to help local governments revitalize abandoned and underused malls and corporate office parks.
State officials created the 21st Century Redevelopment Program in October. It provides grants of up to $50,000 to local governments for projects where they are looking to redevelop malls and office parks that have sat empty as spending power migrates online and businesses leave behind the suburbs in pursuit of urban office space.
The expansion came as part of a measure which Gov. Phil Murphy signed last week – Assembly Bill 1700 – that lets municipalities, counties and other local governments designate these kinds of properties as “areas in need of redevelopment,” a status that allows them to provide certain economic incentives to attract investment, businesses and jobs.
The measure 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 one year. With that designation, towns could use payments in lieu of property taxes, as well as eminent domain, so that a private entity can redevelop the property.
Under the EDA’s expansion, local governments could use the grant money to identify particular retail and office spaces that could serve community needs, such as a grocery store or recreational site, or identify different funding to move the projects forward. Recipients could also use the grant money to conduct legal or economic analyses on what sites should receive the designation, and community forums to take in local input.
EDA officials revamped the application process to provide a 90-day window to apply, rather than the organizations accept them on a rolling basis.
State officials also removed space and vacancy rates which are required for projects to be eligible. Those numbers are instead factored into the entire score for the project.
“The 21st Century Redevelopment Program is an important component of Governor Murphy’s plan to invest in communities that provides an opportunity for municipalities to focus on creative ideas for repurposing dormant properties in ways that contribute to the economy rather than draining valuable resources,” EDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan said in a Tuesday statement.