The troubled Moorestown Mall should be designated an "area in need of redevelopment," the township Planning Board voted unanimously Thursday night.
That legal designation would open the possibility of property tax breaks for mall owner Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT) or others developing and improving the site. PREIT on January 11 announced it plans for as many as 1,065 multifamily units and a hotel at the site to shore up its mall investment, which has lost three of its four anchor stores. Only Boscov's remains.
Board members voted 9-0 to recommend the designation to Township Council, affirming that the property met three criteria for the redevelopment status. Only one is required to award the status.
There was no testimony from members of the public.
Board planner Michelle M. Taylor, president of Taylor Design Group Inc. of Mount Laurel, said the three criteria are:
- Significant vacancies in shopping mall buildings
- Obsolescence of buildings, making them detrimental to the safety, health, morals or welfare of the community
- The designation for redevelopment as consistent with "smart growth planning principles"
Taylor authored a 59-page study on Moorestown Mall and reasons it should get the redevelopment status. If residential properties are developed on the site, some would be required to be set aside as affordable for low- and moderate-income households, she said.
"Moorestown Mall is at a critical juncture," current owner PREIT states in the report. "Redeveloping the center and adding complementary uses will support the mall, stabilizing, and improving its performance," PREIT, which bought the property in 2003, said.
Board member Robert Musgnug said the plan looked like a "Hail Mary" from the mall's owner. He said PREIT already has sold four acres of its 86-acre site and announced a housing plan.
Board solicitor Matthew B. Wieliczko, of the Zeller & Wieliczko LLP law firm in Cherry Hill, advised Musgnug and other board members that "the scope of what we're here for this evening is restrictive" to whether or not to advise the council that the area is in need of redevelopment.
William Barker of the board noted that "clearly, the mall is in distress."