Future of malls in NJ: ‘Mall rescue’ group buys Bridgewater Commons
⚫ Bridgewater Commons Mall reaches 35 years in Somerset County
⚫ New mall ownership has $3B in assets, much of it mixed-use, lifestyle properties
⚫ Bridgewater mayor applauds the change to help ensure the mall’s ‘viability’
BRIDGEWATER — Just as it celebrates 35 years of being open — one of New Jersey’s malls has been sold to a company known for revamping such retail hubs, which have weathered the rise of online shopping and post-pandemic challenges.
“Bridgewater Commons is an anchor in this community that isn’t going anywhere,” a spokesperson for the mall said in a written statement Tuesday.
The property does appear to be headed for an extensive, if slow, makeover — based on the new owners’ approach to similar projects.
Pacific Retail Capital Partners has built a reputation on its open-air lifestyle and mixed-use centers, with more than $3 billion in assets under management across the country.
Based in Southern California, the company’s portfolio entails 24 properties, including three in the northeast.
“The Bridgewater Commons Mall has been the centerpiece of Bridgewater’s commercial sector for over 30 years and the Township looks forward to working with its new owners,” Mayor Matthew Moench said.
“I am confident that a collaborative relationship will help to ensure the Mall’s viability for the next 30 years and beyond,” he said.
New owner of Bridgewater Commons already revamping 3 malls in NY
Pacific Retail Capital Partners CEO Steven Plenge explained the company’s approach to such existing malls in an interview with Women’s Wear Daily, which bills the company as rescuers for the older retail complexes.
“They were built up in areas that were kind of central. They’re very well located with great arterial access,” Plenge told WWD, adding “They became town centers.”
“Bridgewater Commons will continue to be a gathering place for all, and the center’s leadership will continue to meet with and support local leaders,” the mall spokesperson said in Tuesday’s release.
In New York’s Hudson Valley, the Galleria at White Plains has started the very early stages of a massive redesign under Pacific Retail, set to make it one of the nation’s largest mall redevelopment projects.
PRCP also owns Colonie Center in Albany, NY, Broadway Commons on Long Island (Hicksville) and Solomon Pond Mall just outside of Boston, Massachusetts.
Bridgewater Council already prepped for new aspects of mall space
The Bridgewater Township Council adopted a zoning ordinance late last year that allows the mall to add entertainment, amusement and game space, MyCentralJersey reported.
Other malls in the state — including Woodbridge Center and Willowbrook Mall — have already added Dave & Busters to their offerings.
There are also Topgolf locations not far from Menlo Mall in Edison and shopping centers in Mount Laurel.
Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse already has been working to open at Bridgewater Commons this year.
When the Crate & Barrel store on the outskirts of the mall closed at the end of 2021, the town and mall quickly moved to zone the space for medical offices, instead.
Perhaps another example of what could be in store for Somerset County at Bridgewater Commons is a project underway in Illinois.
PRCP has been converting Yorktown Center in a suburb of Chicago — a 1.4 million-square-foot mall in Lombard, where the CEO told WWD that they have been cleared for 625 residential units — as well as a new grocer, several restaurants and some new park space.
“So it’s really invigorating the property in a big way. You have this great community aspect, and that’s something we want to emulate over and over again” in other projects, Plenge said in the same WWD interview.