The Pleasantville Center on the Black Horse Pike, anchored by Kmart and the Asia Supermarket, is bustling daily. But with the loss of Kmart, Mayor Jesse Tweedle said finding the right tenant to fill the location will be the key to the shopping center’s success.

“You have to be really smart about the new tenants. It has to be something that’s feasible in this area,” he said.

Kmart announced it will close 78 stores, including its Pleasantville and Rio Grande locations, adding to the inventory of strip mall vacancies in the area.

Developer Harvey Rosenblatt of P3RE properties in Jackson Township, Ocean County, said it’s important to take the time to get it right.

Rosenblatt purchased Smithville Square in March 2016 and has been working to fill the plaza’s 40,000-square-foot anchor store, which previously housed grocers such as Foodtown and Incollingo’s.

He said that while Smithville Square’s 56,000-square-feet of smaller storefronts are nearly 80 percent full, finding the right fit for the anchor is much harder.

He said a previous owner put a wall down the middle of the anchor store to try to find a tenant, “but that failed as well.”

He said they are seeking another grocer, but stores such as Lidl and Aldi, which are developing new locations in the region, have too small a footprint. Meanwhile, stores like ShopRite are much more expansive.

“It’s failed in the past, and if it’s going to be a grocer it has to be someone that is well established and can compete with whoever’s local,” Rosenblatt said.

For Pleasantville, Kmart’s closing is a social loss, but also one of aesthetics. Tweedle said.

“There’s always concern when you have an empty building that’s been around for years,” he said.

Tweedle said he doesn’t want to see the Pleasantville Center suffer the same fate as the Cardiff Power Center on the Black Horse Pike in Egg Harbor Township.

“That’s a ghost town, and it’s a shame, too, because it was thriving,” he said. “It’s reflective of the economy.”

The Cardiff center is one of the more glaring examples of empty strip malls in South Jersey. Formerly home to a 60,600-square-foot Pathmark supermarket — which closed in 2012 — now all that’s left are a Big Lots and Forman Mills. Tweedle said the void has a negative implication for the municipality.

“You don’t want those kind of negative appearances to be right there on the forefront. It’s something that we’re all going through in the municipalities,” he said.

Egg Harbor Township Mayor James “Sonny” McCullough said filling vacancies in large commercial properties is important for the township and its taxpayers.

“It increases the ratable base, which helps the general taxpayers,” he said.

McCullough cited Tanger Outlets The Walk in Atlantic City as a deterrent for redevelopment of struggling strip malls.

“It was a tremendous competition when you’re getting free land and tax relief and all kinds of economic incentives. All the big-box stores and the outlets, instead of coming to where the population is, they are going to Atlantic City,” he said.

McCullough said EHT has a five-year tax-abatement program for any new business building in the township.

Egg Harbor Township is getting some new development in the form of a 250,000-square-foot shopping center anchored by a 188,500-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter at Fire Road and the Black Horse Pike. McCullough said he hopes that will be good for all businesses by drawing customers to the area.

Rosenblatt said the loss of anchor stores is not something unique to South Jersey.

“It’s across the board. In the retail world of today, you just see big boxes shuttering as opposed to opening. Arguably a lot of it has to do with the dynamics that the internet has brought to the playing field of retail,” he said.

One of the biggest challenges in rural South Jersey is the lack of foot traffic, especially when the big-box stores close.

“For what it’s worth, it’s certainly better for me holding off to get the right retailer in there,” Rosenblatt said. “We’re talking to the right retailers. We’re focusing in on the uses that we think can work and will work based on the demographics.”

Contact:

609-272-7251 CLowe@pressofac.com Twitter @clairelowe

Staff Writer

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.

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