ROXBURY, NJ - Suspecting visibility problems as a reason some of its retail tenants aren’t thriving, the owner of the Roxbury Mall in Succasunna plans to overhaul the shopping center’s appearance and signage.

The plan calls for adding a new sign at the intersection of Route 10 and Commerce Boulevard, removing 35 trees bordering the perimeter of the property and planting 45 new ones at wider intervals. The Roxbury Planning Board last week voted to allow mall owner Fidelity Land Development to advance on its proposal.

Fidelity founder Sal Davino said the idea to add a new sign listing the mall’s retailers was born because stores on the Commerce Boulevard side have more vacancies and do less business than those elsewhere in the mall. He suspected the trees along the street blocked motorists from viewing the existing sign and inhibited traffic to that side.

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When the project is complete, “You’re finally going to see the shopping center,” Davino said.

The proposal calls for the removal of the shade trees along a 470-foot stretch along Commerce Boulevard and a 260-foot span along Route 10. There is nothing wrong with these 27 Armstrong maples, said landscape architect Edward Clark. But the current spacing arrangement -20 feet apart - needs to be doubled, he said.

Sixteen Musashino Zelkovas and nine Columnar Sweetgums will take their place, 40 feet apart from each other, and are meant to last about 100 years.

The enlarged gaps will help drivers better see the facade of the mall, along with the signs, said Clark. Fidelity will need to repair some Bank of America panels that are cracked or inconsistent in color with the rest of the façade, it was noted.

There will also be 51 shorter ornamental trees removed from the mall property. The ones in place were rapidly approaching their expiration dates and had been topped off, Clark said.

“You’re going to remove a lot of ornamental trees off the sight, and that’s part of the shock value,” Clark said. “They weren’t going to be here in a couple years anyway ... you gotta crack a few eggs to make an omelet, and you have an overall better finished product. A little shock in getting there, but an overall better finished product.”

The proposal also calls for 30 trees to be replaced in the planting islands in the parking lot. Fidelity plans to clean up interior pathways and add new plants and shade trees beside them as well.

The double-faced sign to be installed will be about 12 feet high by 14 feet wide with an advertising face area of 110.62 square feet. A berm will lift it two feet in the air, much lower to the ground than the other sign on Commerce Boulevard, which will remain as is.

“It’s really (about) … visibility and attention being drawn to the Commerce Boulevard sign,” said Sandy Davino Niccolai, executive vice president at Fidelity. “So that sign will help the Commerce Boulevard tenants with visibility, with the name recognition on it. It makes it more attractive for a tenant.”

After discussing it in several prior meetings, the planning board passed Fidelity’s proposal on Wednesday with no dissenting votes. However, board member Tom Carey’s vote came with a verbal asterisk.

“I sincerely think that the sign will have limited visibility,” he said. “I think that at 50 miles an hour the sign will do absolutely nothing. However, the benefit to the shopping center and the benefit to the community, for that reason only, I’m going to vote yes.”

Reminding him that one of Roxbury’s current focuses is “to make western Morris County a destination” for shoppers, board member John Wetzel also expressed reservations.

“My concern about creating these big gaps (in the tree spacing) is unless it’s executed dead on, you’re gonna take a step backwards in terms of design,” Wetzel said. “It will hurt you (Sal), but it will hurt the town more.”

Davino said he would make sure the operation would be implemented correctly.