ROXBURY, NJ – The owners of the former Ledgewood Mall received township approval this week to begin demolishing the former Macy’s store, the first step in their long-awaited plan to convert the failed mall into the new Shops at Ledgewood Commons shopping center.

The demolition permit, issued Wednesday, allows contractor DAS Group of Rockaway to begin the $250,000 removal of the 73,000-square-foot building. The structure served as a Macy’s store from 1994 until 2015 and has been vacant since then.

Ledgewood Investors, a partnership that owns the building and all others on the 46.6-acre site, decided to demolish the structure because it impeded traffic flow through the property. The company is converting the former mall – which has an interior corridor connecting stores – into an external-entry-only shopping center like the nearby Roxbury Mall, where all businesses have doors leading to the parking lot.

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Bulldozers are also in the future for the Barnes & Noble store, but the bookstore will be relocated to the structure that formerly housed The Sports Authority. The developers also plan to erect some new buildings on the site.

The developers, who hope to have the new mall open next year, have been pitching the project to prospective tenants but have yet to announce any confirmed renters. “They’re keeping pretty quiet on who they have coming in there,” said Roxbury Councilman Richard Zoschak. “I think they signed quite a bit of leases already but they are not saying who.”

Wendy's, Red Lobster and Former Pizza Hut Join the Fold

Meanwhile, land next to the mall property that contains a Red Lobster, a Wendy’s and a former Pizza Hut is being unofficially integrated into the new shopping center.

The 5-acre parcel is adjacent to, but not officially part of The Shops at Ledgewood Commons property. However, the parcel was bought for $4 million earlier this year by Ledgewood Outparcel Investors LLC, a company that has the same address as the Shops at Ledgewood Commons owner.

The five acres and three buildings were sold by Roxbury Realty Associates of Fort Washington, Pa., which bought the piece for $2.05 million in 2014 from Roxbury Enterprises LLC of Succasunna, a company whose president is Roxbury Water Co. co-founder John Grabovetz.

That deal, between Roxbury Enterprises and Roxbury Realty, was a “non-usable sale for assessment” arrangement, meaning it did not reflect the market value of the property, said Roxbury Township Tax Assessor Joseph McKeon. He said the site was subject to a bonded lease “which made for a lower valuation.”

The buildings and land, including Ledgewood Pond, are assessed at about $2.3 million, according to township records, but McKeon estimated they are worth at least $3.5 million.

Development plans submitted by Ledgewood Investors and approved by the Roxbury Planning Board in May, did not include, as part of the project, the site that includes the three restaurant buildings. Even the most recent Ledgewood Commons planning documents submitted by Ledgewood Investors to the township continued to list the 5-acre piece as being owned by Roxbury Realty, not by Outparcel Investors.

Jared Minarelli, director of asset management for Advance Realty, one of the companies in the partnership building Ledgewood Commons, did not return several messages. Another person involved in the project said all comments must come from Minarelli but confirmed that the Red Lobster/Wendy’s parcel “at a very basic service level” will be integrated into the new mall.

That was news to Roxbury Planner Russell Stern. Neither he nor others at the township planning department were aware of the property sale. If Ledgewood Investors wants to alter the site – to make it match the aesthetics  and other design aspects of Ledgewood Commons – it will need to submit a site plan application, officials said.

Ledgewood Commons developers have been including the Wendy’s and Red Lobster in their marketing efforts; their brochures include the Wendy’s and Red Lobster logos alongside Marshalls, Ashley Furniture, Walmart, Men’s Wearhouse and Barnes & Noble.