Plans to Revamp Shore Mall: A Road (Improvement) Too Far?

Here's an article from Sarah Watson of The Press of Atlantic City regarding plans by the current owner to redevelop the Shore Mall into an "open air plaza" with approximately 600,000SF of retail, restaurant and commercial space.  In essence, the owner, Cedar Shopping Centers, Inc. (CSC), is looking to "de-mall" the Shore Mall.

Anybody familiar with the Shore Mall knows that something has to be done to revitalize it before its too late.  I, for one, am not sure if the local market can support more "open-air" shopping -- there's already a bunch of it in the areas surrounding Shore Mall -- but CSC apparently has had some success with a similar plan in Camp Hill, PA.  Something has to be done with the Mall and the plan -- including a "boulevard-style road network" -- sounds intriguing and like it could fit the vast space available.  (The Mall appears to be on a large parcel of land.)

As noted by Sonny McCullough, Mayor of Egg Harbor Township, where the Shore Mall is located, the key to the plan is off-site road work to improve access to the Mall.  I agree 100%.  Anybody familiar with the area knows that access to/from the Mall is a tangled mess which undoubtedly discourages potential visitors.  (Hand raised.)  The plan apparently seeks to improve access from the Garden State Parkway and to create a dedicated, full-service intersection into the Mall, among other things.  All good things.

That's the good news.  Here's the bad: CSC is seeking grant money for the off-site road improvements.  Good luck w/ that.  Mayor McCullough acknowledges in the article that there is no grant money available -- no surprise -- and it is hard to see when any might become available in today's economic climate.  In other words, don't look for changes to the Shore Mall any time soon.  No grant money = no off-site road improvements = no redevelopment of the Shore Mall.  It all feels like a bit of a dog and pony show.  I'm left with the following questions:

  • What's behind the timing of the article?  There really was no new development or change in the plan and there is an admission that the money to get started is not available.  So why leak the application for grant money?  Who benefits from the timing and how?  Frankly, I can't see it.
  • Who's behind the article.  It seems pretty clear that EHT is behind it.  After all, CSC refused comment whereas the Mayor and Township Administrator are quoted throughout.  The question is why?  To put some pressure on state/federal politicians to find the grant money?  To put pressure on CSC?  Should we be readying ourselves for an argument from EHT that the Shore Mall is "too big to fail"?  

FINAL THOUGHT: I can't help but contrast CSC's wait for grant money w/ the decision of the developer of Gravelly Run Square in nearby Hamilton Township to spend $1M of its own money to extend a dead-end street in order to improve traffic access.  Granted, the scale of off-site improvements is significantly greater ($23M) at the Shore Mall, but the investment by Benderson Development and the fact that they're off the sidelines shows to me a confidence, or belief, in the project.  Meanwhile, I'm not sure at this point how much CSC believes in the success of the Shore Mall.  Here's hoping that they prove me wrong.

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