Tenants of the section of the Shore Mall slated for demolition next year are beginning to wind down operations, starting Monday with the Jersey Shore Children’s Museum.
The museum, which has occupied a storefront since 2003, is one of the first tenants to close. Others will follow in the coming weeks, with most expected to vacate the Egg Harbor Township mall by the end of January.
“It’s all kind of sad,” said Mari Dattolo, who’s leading an effort to save the nonprofit museum. Dattolo said the goal is to raise $100,000 to upgrade exhibits and pay for relocation.
The Port Washington, N.Y.-based Cedar Realty Trust, which purchased the mall in 2006 for $36.5 million, plans to demolish about 247,000 square feet of commercial space in the rear of the mall. It would then cordon off the vacant space and a portion of the mall’s parking lot while a new developer is sought.
Situated on the Black Horse Pike, the property was last assessed at nearly $29 million and paid $1.2 million in taxes this year. Township officials have estimated the demolition project would cut the mall’s tax bill by about a third.
Mall officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Linda Szypula, one of the museum’s founders, said she was still searching for a location the nonprofit can afford. Historically, they’ve paid a nominal fee for their space across from the Motor Vehicle Commission. According to the nonprofit’s 2010 Form 990 tax return, the most recent available, its total expenses were $94,910 against $85,588 in revenue.
“We’ve been getting a lot of emails on our website from members letting us know they’ll be in this week,” she said. “They all want to come and say goodbye to the place.”
Szypula said all memberships, which help support the museum’s various activities and exhibits, will be frozen until a new location is opened. On Monday, she said, the museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Doug Keefe, whose Beachcomber Collectibles has been a tenant for 38 years, said he expects to shut down most of his operations by Jan. 20, although he’ll still be buying gold until moving day on Jan. 31.
“We’ll be open for business up until the last day,” he said.
The business will be moving into a smaller storefront at the old Wawa property at the Cardiff Circle. Keefe expects to open at the new location the next day.
Novia Rowe, who owns the flower and gift shop Create A Basket, said the mall closure means she’ll miss Valentine’s Day, her biggest holiday.
Rowe signed a two-month lease when she opened her first storefront in November, but was promised she could stay until March. Now, she said, that future is uncertain.
“I wanted to be here for my big holiday, but I don’t know,” said Rowe, 49, of Atlantic City. “I’ll have to go online or set up business in New York.”
One tenant who will be staying at the mall is the Motor Vehicle Commission. According to plans filed with the township, the mall will build a new space for the commission as part of its renovations.
“We’ve been assured space on the other end of the mall,” said MVC spokeswoman Elyse Coffey. “Our game plan is we’ll prepare the space, get all of our computers up and running, and we’ll move ourselves into that space.”
If all goes according to plan, Coffey said, the move will likely take place on a Saturday, meaning the commission could be closed for just one day.
“Our intention is not to inconvenience any of our customers,” she said.
So far, Coffey said, the mall hasn’t given the MVC a timetable for the move.
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