ROXBURY, NJ – Taking a better-safe-than-sorry approach, township officials this week pushed the developers renovating Ledgewood Mall to build a left-turn lane into the project significantly longer than what engineers initially deemed sufficient.
Faced with having the proposed Shops at Ledgewood Commons further delayed, the developers on Tuesday agreed to extend the westbound Route 10 left-turn lane well beyond what they envisioned. They told the Roxbury Mayor and Council, which pushed for the longer lane, that the extension will increase the cost of the project, but they eventually agreed to the requested lengthening.
The lane will allow westbound motorists to turn onto Marie Louise Avenue and into the new shopping center, expected to open in 2019. In pushing to have the lane extended to about 550 feet long, Roxbury officials said they want to be sure holiday traffic headed for the shopping center doesn’t end up blocking the state highway’s left lane.
John Harter, a traffic expert representing developers Advance Realty and DeBartolo Development, told the council a 319-foot turning lane was probably sufficient, but he designed it to be about 400 feet long to be on the safe side. Although a lawyer for the developers argued that the lane – at 400 feet long – was “overdesigned,” Advance and DeBartolo agreed to the council’s request to add about 150 extra feet, bringing the lane to about 550 feet long.
Recalling “severe and significant” problems caused by an insufficient left-turn lane for eastbound Route 10 drivers headed onto North Hillside Avenue – a situation that was later alleviated by lengthening the lane – Roxbury Councilman Fred Hall pushed hard. “You have to understand something,” he said. “We just fixed a major problem on Route 10 … The worst possible set of circumstances is if that queuing area is not large enough,” he told the developers.
At 400 feet long, the turning lane would accommodate about 20 cars, said Harter. Extending the lane 120 feet to 150 feet would allow about five more vehicles to get in line, he said.
The Shops at Ledgewood Commons project entails "de-malling" the current Ledgewood Mall by removing the existing interior corridors and making access to all stores come from the parking lot. It also entails demolishing the structure that last housed a Macy's. The Ledgewood Walmart will remain as will Marshall's and Ashley Furniture. Barnes & Noble will move to a new place of the property.
Roxbury officials are expecting the 450,000-square-foot project to be a big success, bringing new life to a once-thriving, 45-year-old shopping center that lost most of its tenants during the past decade.
“I fully support making every effort to make that lane longer,” said Roxbury Councilman Bob DeFillippo. “We need to be absolutely clear. There’s going to be traffic. In fact, that’s the whole point. We’re taking a derelict mall and we’re creating a vibrant new shopping center. It’s going to attract a lot of people to Roxbury ... That’s the good news for Roxbury. You get a lot of people to come to town to shop. So anybody who says there’s not going to be traffic is wrong.”
Harter agreed to re-design the plans to lengthen the lane. Given that assurance, the council voted to approve the design which includes a stipulation that no U-turns will be permitted.