ROXBURY, NJ – The developers of The Shops at Ledgewood Commons are assessing whether Gov. Phil Murphy’s latest executive order, banning “non-essential” construction, will put the brakes on the huge project, said a company spokesman today.
Advance Realty Investors spokesman Dan Ivers was not sure whether Murphy’s order will halt work at the site on Route 10 formerly known as The Ledgewood Mall. “We have yet to see the published order from the governor,” Ivers said. “Once we can examine that, we will evaluate our options on how to move forward.”
Roxbury officials are in the same boat: Hoping the huge, long-awaited, project can continue but not sure if that’s possible given Murphy’s COVID-19-related clampdown.
Non-Essential, Not Allowed
The governor announced Wednesday he’d signed an order “to further our aggressive efforts to enforce social distancing” that bans all non-essential construction in the state. The order will go into effect 8 p.m. Friday, Murphy said.
That would likely include building new shopping centers such as Ledgewood Commons. However, Murphy also indicated his executive order includes an exception for some types of retail businesses:
Projects involving facilities at which any one or more of the following takes place: the manufacture, distribution, storage, or servicing of goods or products that are sold by online retail businesses or essential retail businesses, as defined by Executive Order No. 107 (2020) and subsequent Administrative Orders adopted pursuant to that Order.
“Does it apply to Ledgewood Commons? I don’t know,” said Roxbury Mayor Bob DeFillippo. “I’m certainly going look into it.”
Roxbury Township Manager John Shepherd echoed the uncertainty. “I became aware of the governor’s latest order earlier today,” he said. “As with the other executive orders, I believe that we will receive more detailed guidance, so we are aware of the extent and exceptions to the order.”
A Waiver Process?
State Sen. Anthony Bucco, who also serves as Roxbury township counsel, said there might be hope for Ledgewood Commons.
“I understand, through calls I’ve been on, if there is construction that’s relatively far along and can be completed while maintaining social distances it’s going to be OK,” Bucco said.
Although substantial progress was made this year, The Shops at Ledgewood Commons is hardly near completion. The 470,000-square-foot shopping center was announced in 2016, and the developers anticipated it would open in 2017. That was later revised to 2019.
Walmart, building a new 170,000-square-foot Supercenter at the site, expected to open its store by the end of this year, but a COVID-19-related work stoppage would put that at risk.
“I don’t know if the governor is establishing a waiver process,” Bucco said. “I would imagine somebody is going have to be contacted to determine whether it can continue … There needs to be recognition that some construction work can be done while maintaining social distancing, and - to the extent we can continue to keep people employed safely - we need to do that.”
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