Foxmoor Shopping Center
After years of general disregard and decreasing customer interest, Foxmoor Shopping Center on Route 33 has received a lifeline in the form of new ownership. Through an online auction on August 1, Penmark Management Company Inc. purchased the center for $7.5 million, with the sale becoming permanent by September, and has promised to honor all existing leases.
Through this change in leadership, Foxmoor has the opportunity to once again become a small business hub of Robbinsville.
Foxmoor Shopping Center, built in 1986, has faced tough times in the past few years, leading to a 41% vacancy rate and declining sales for the business that chose to stay. Before 2015, the center was owned by Pettinaro Management LLC from Delaware, whom Robbinsville Director of Community Development Hal English described as “absent.”
Once the land went into bankruptcy, Pettinaro sold the property to the U.S. Bank National Association for $100, with the bank assuming the $13.1 million in debt. Since then, U.S. Bank hired property manager Colliers International for minimal maintenance, however they did not focus on improving or even properly maintaining the 19-acre property, leading to potholes in the parking lot and general disarray. “Colliers was tasked with simple maintenance. If there was a leak in the roof, (Colliers) would plug the leak, not get a new roof,” English said. Colliers was also tasked with leasing, but faced difficulty because every lease and line-item had to be approved by the bankruptcy court, further complicating the process of negotiating a lease.
Combining the difficulty of negotiating leases with the declining appeal of Foxmoor, many tenants began to close up shop and leave, including Thriftway Market, Rite-Aid, and various restaurants. And while there was tenant interest, the lease process made it difficult to replace leaving businesses. “We have actually had interest in the shopping center, but several tenants have wanted to come in and couldn’t. They couldn’t get a lease negotiated because it was between the bank, the leasing company, and the bankruptcy court,” English said.
After English entered his current role a year and a half ago, he was informed that revitalizing Foxmoor was a top concern for Robbinsville. “When I came on board, the mayor and council told me that (Foxmoor) was their number one concern. So I went to work on it, and got the bank to meet with us. At the meeting, the mayor and council were not shy in telling the bank how upset we were about the shopping center,” English said.
The mayor and council expressed their frustrations through the threat of condemnation, since Foxmoor was designated as an area in need of redevelopment by the Robbinsville Planning Board in August 2016. “They basically told the bank that either they sell it, fix it up, and lease it, or we we will condemn it and then take it. That’s when the bank decided to cut their losses and put it out to auction,” English said.
From July 30 to August 1, through a private online auction platform, U.S. Bank sold the property to Penmark for $7.5 million, under the appraised value of $13.1 million, with the bidding starting at $2.5 million. Though the names of bidders were not revealed, the auction itself was quite active.
Penmark Management, the owners of Suburban Square Shopping Center on Scotch Road in Ewing, have a history of improving and revitalizing shopping malls. As the town press release notes, Penmark “purchased the Coventry Mall in Pottstown, Pa. in April, 2016 and increased the tenant occupancy rate from 65 percent to 89 percent in two years. Foot traffic increased dramatically with more food vendors and following much-needed repairs to the mall.”
While Penmark declined to comment on this sale since it will not be finalized by press time, English explained his enthusiasm for the new ownership. “Penmark owns many malls and shopping centers, and they have connections and contracts with many kids of retail and food establishments, so they seem quite confident they can bring a food store to Foxmoor.” English emphasized the importance of opening a food store, especially since so many Robbinsville residents now have to go out of town for grocery shopping after Thriftway closed in 2011.
Though the sale has not been finalized, Penmark has already begun to hold meetings and work closely with the township to create plans redevelop Foxmoor. “We’ve got a great developer with a lot of experience that’s willing to roll up their sleeves and work with us. We’ve already been working diligently, gathering information to market and redesign Foxmoor,” English said.
Because Foxmoor is a designated area in need of redevelopment, this allows Penmark and the township to engage in creative zoning and bring in tenants that are generally not allowed, such as a microbrewery.
Furthermore, along with renovating the facade and landscaping of Foxmoor, the township will work with Penmark to request the Department of Transportation for a right-in right-out lane from Foxmoor to Route 33, which would provide easier access to the mall.
Through revitalizing Foxmoor, English believes Robbinsville can take another step towards supporting the community of small businesses, and is quite excited by the progress. “I’m thrilled the mayor this his top priority, I’m thrilled it’s coming to fruition, and I’m thrilled with the new owners,” English concluded.
Along with revitalizing Foxmoor, the current Master Plan renewal process has the township thinking of ways to better serve the community, such as keeping commercial towards Route 130, and perhaps even opening an retirement home location.
For more information on the Foxmoor sale, please read the township press release here: http://www.robbinsville-twp.org/news_detail_T2_R287.php
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