Eminent Domain Abuse in Cinnaminson NJ

New Plan Excel to Redevelop Condemned Suburban Philadelphia Mall: Commercial Property News, 9/23/05

By Michael Fickes

A New York City-based retail real estate investment trust (REIT) will redevelop a 40-acre condemned mall located along Route 130 in the Philadelphia suburb of Cinnaminson, N.J.

Under an agreement with the Cinnaminson Township Committee, New Plan Excel Realty Trust Inc. will take possession of Cinnaminson Mall, which was condemned and taken over by Cinnaminson Township last month. New Plan will pay the former owner, Yardley Associates, an unspecified amount for the property, which has been assessed at $3.7 million.

The redevelopment calls for the construction of a 310,000-square-foot grocery store-anchored, open-air community shopping center with several junior anchors and a mix of national and regional in-line retailers.

New Plan would not comment on the deal, and a Cinnaminson Township Committee representative did not return calls asking for comment. But in a statement, the Committee said that the new center would stimulate Cinnaminson’s local economy.

The deal comes after New Plan sold 69 community and neighborhood shopping centers to Galileo America LLC for approximately $968 million in August, pruning the REIT’s portfolio to 461 properties, including 150 held through joint ventures.

Commercial Property News: www.cpnonline.com

Cinnaminson set for retail renewal: (Camden NJ) Courier-Post, 10/2/05

By Lavinia DeCastro

Nearly 200 people gathered on Saturday morning to witness the first step toward the redevelopment of the long-ailing Cinnaminson Mall.

Wearing commemorative hard hats, onlookers watched as a bulldozer tore down a portion of a long-vacant Caldor store.

"I think this is great," said township resident Faith Steinfort. "This has been an eyesore for so many years."

The mostly vacant mall will be replaced with 330,000 square feet of retail space, said Anthony Minniti, the township's economic development director.

Minniti said he hopes to attract a regional grocer as an anchor, a national retailer and roughly 10 smaller stores to the 39.5-acre site.

"It'll be a similar fashion to what you might see at East Gate (in Mount Laurel)," Minniti said.

Minniti said he expects a New York firm, New Plan Excel Realty Trust, to submit a site plan application to the planning board next week. Construction could begin early in 2006 and be completed by November, he said.

"Just in time for Christmas shopping," Mayor Sandra K. Iaquinto added.

New Plan Excel officials have said they will help relocate the half-dozen businesses that remain at the mall. Most of those businesses are in a building fronting Route 130, one of several structures on the site.

The project is the second-largest redevelopment effort in the Route 130 corridor, after the Willingboro Mall project.

Steinfort said the project will help lower taxes.

"People are always concerned over tax issues," she said. "One of the best ways to help out is to bring ratables to the township."

Richard Charles, also a resident, said a new shopping center will provide a much-needed boost.

"Route 130 is the face of Cinnaminson," Charles said. "This is very exciting for the town. It shows that Cinnaminson is a great place to do business."

Courier-Post: www.courierpostonline.com

Mall to make way for new retail spot: Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, 9/22/05

By Frank Kummer

Cinnaminson authorized a deal yesterday to redevelop a large shopping center long considered an eyesore by officials and turn it into a modern retail destination.

The Township Committee passed a resolution approving the agreement with NewPlan Excel Realty Trust, which will be designated the redeveloper of Cinnaminson Mall, a 40-acre parcel at Route 130 and Cinnaminson Avenue.

The property, owned by Yardley Associates of Bala Cynwyd, was declared a redevelopment zone in 2002 by the township, but committee members and Yardley could never come to an agreement.

Last month, a Burlington County Superior Court judge ruled that the township could take the site through condemnation.

Under terms of the agreement, the property will now be transferred to NewPlan Excel, and Yardley Associates will be paid an amount not yet made public. The property is assessed at $3.7 million.

"It's wonderful news," said Committeeman Anthony V. Minniti, who oversees economic development for the township. "We've been trying to effect this redevelopment project for three years. It's the gateway to Burlington County. It's a cornerstone."

The property is just north of the Pennsauken Mart, near the Camden-Burlington County border.

NewPlan Excel says the company is "one of the nation's largest owners and managers of community and neighborhood shopping centers," with 450 properties in 39 states.

The property currently contains a complex of buildings in various stages of vacancy. The large Caldor store is closed, as are several smaller stores. But Bank of America is open in a free-standing building. Manhattan Bagel and Eckerd Drugs are open in other buildings.

Plans call for all buildings to be razed and the land graded into a new layout. NewPlan Excel will build a new shopping center, with 310,000 square feet of space. It will include a supermarket of at least 70,000 square feet. Seven to 10 smaller retail shops would be included.

NewPlan Excel will help pay for major improvements to the road intersection at the mall. The state and county would pay for the rest. Improvements would include a traffic signal and lane realignment.

Minniti said the new shopping center would be like a smaller East Gate, a large, popular shopping area on the Moorestown-Mount Laurel border.

The new property will be assessed at about $40 million when fully built, he said.

The judge's order calls for NewPlan Excel and Cinnaminson to complete the transferral of property by Dec. 31. NewPlan officials hope to have a detailed site plan by then and have scheduled an Oct. 1 groundbreaking, which will include smashing a wrecking ball into the Caldor.

Leases on the mall stores still open will be terminated under the court order. However, those stores are free to work with NewPlan Excel.

Philadelphia Inquirer: www.philly.com

People losing their places of business aren't quite as happy
A letter to Eminent Domain Watch

The Cinnaminson Township was able to obtain the right for Eminent Domain on the Cinnaminson Mall in August/September. As a result, the Township was able to force the former landlord, Baker Associates, to sell the property to New Plan Excel, Realty Trust.

The action came about when Baker Associates did not renovate or upgrade or lease the property in a way to benefit the Mall. About 90% of the property was vacant with only a few tenants. The Township saw that surounding cities were building and attracting "big box" stores to their areas. In order to capitalize, they decided to take authority for eminent domain on the property and give it to a firm that would attract and build a better Mall. As a result, the current tenants are being pushed out.

The property is valued at $66 million in tax revenue for Cinnaminson Township.

We own a dry cleaning business at the Cinnaminson Mall and have a lease for another three years. The Township is offering us relocation (we have to pay for replacement/broken machines during the move) to another plaza. But the new plaza is across the street from the original Cinnaminson Mall. The new plan for the Mall also has a plan for a dry cleaning shop, so we will have new competition. So, as a result of the action of begining to tear down the Mall, we have lost over 50% of our business. We do not believe that relocating is going to save us from going broke.

The attorney for the Township claims that their efforts to offer us relocation has fulfilled their responsibilities. Relocating the business is futile and almost all of our machines are highly likely to be damaged. We are at a loss to know how we might approach the Township legally to obtain fair compensation for the current value of the business.

To make matters even worse, the Township is classifing our business as "displaced" even though we are in business, paying rent, and have a landlord. This classification allows us to be eligible only for the NJ WRAP program — which gives us at most $10,000 for a business for which we paid $175,000. All this, before the township has actually executed its eminant domain authority.

We are investigating the possibiliies of a lawsuit against the township and also against the current landlord for not disclosing the situation to us prior to our signing the lease.