Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday signed a new bill aimed at giving a shot in the arm to vacant and underused malls and corporate office parks.
Under Assembly Bill 1700 municipalities can designate these places as “areas in need of redevelopment,” a status that allows them to provide economic incentives to attract investment, business and jobs.
“Municipalities will now have a stronger tool to fix abandoned retail centers and office parks that clutter up the landscape,” bill sponsor Assemblyman Ron Dancer, R-30th District, said in a statement.
Malls have been hollowed out as patrons opt for shopping online. Meanwhile, suburban office parks have stood empty as businesses move into cities and other urban centers, or move their operations overseas.
The bill 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. Under the designation, towns could use payments in lieu of property taxes, as well as eminent domain, so that a private entity can redevelop the property.
“The buildings have become a significant burden on surrounding communities, driving taxes up and property values down,” Dancer added. “On the other hand, improving commercial properties will lead to higher tax revenues and create local jobs.”