ROXBURY, NJ - A developer’s plan to “de-mall” the Ledgewood Mall is bad news for people now walking the enclosed structure’s empty, but still heated, corridors for cold weather exercise.
There’s not much that can be done about that, said an engineer designing the mall’s replacement. He noted, however, that the new Shops at Ledgewood Commons will have plenty of sidewalks.
Contending small, enclosed malls like Ledgewood Mall are no longer viable, the developers are planning to convert the place into an open-air shopping center similar to Roxbury Mall. All stores at the new “Shops at Ledgewood Commons” will have their own storefronts facing the parking lot, similar to the nearby Roxbury Mall, according to the plans.
That means an end to the long corridors of Ledgewood Mall, now virtually empty of shops and shoppers but still connecting the Walmart to the Marshall’s, Bath & Body Works and Ashley Furniture stores. Their retailing purposefulness might be diminished, but those well-maintained walkways are now a hotspot of sorts for people – mainly senior citizens – who go there to walk in groups and socialize.
"Make it Walker-Friendly"
The only enclosed walkway being planned at the new center will be a 200-foot-long, 20-foot-wide hallway connecting the Righter Road parking lot with the main lots on the Route 10 side, a feature requested by the Roxbury Planning Board.
Succasunna resident Tanya Shoudy, a member of the Roxbury Historic Society, recently urged the developers to take the mall walkers into consideration. She said she often walks there with her husband and young children.
“It’s been on my mind to speak,” she said at last week’s planning board meeting. “First to laud the developers for revamping their plan (to include the parking-lot-connecting corridor) but also to ask if you all would consider making this corridor friendly for walking, should it be wide or long enough to make it worthwhile.”
Shoudy said many residents, especially seniors, enjoy using the enclosed mall for “maintaining active lifestyles” especially this time of year. “It is used for walking and as a meeting place in our community for people to gather and exercise together,” she said. “It might be empty of shops, but it is not empty of appreciation.”
She said she “spoke with several people who are disheartened to see the enclosed portion of the structure go,” adding the enclosed mall “gives them a place to exercise most of the year where they don’t have to freeze outside or spend money they don’t have at a gym.”
Shoudy figures people might use the new connector for indoor walking despite its shortness. She urged the developers to make it as nice as possible and to keep it open beyond mall hours.
“Please consider keeping the corridor doors unlocked and open in early morning hours before store hours,” she said. “I would also ask that you please consider the installation of proper walking-friendly flooring as well as perhaps trash cans, benches and even a water fountain. My husband and I often take our children to walk around Ledgewood Mall on these long and very cold winter months , when we can’t go to the park, and they really love it and they love the interactions that they have with everyone else who utilizes it. “
Nice in the Summertime
Engineer Daniel Lee, at the meeting, testified that the new connector corridor would be open “during business hours.” He did not address Shoudy’s other suggestions, noting instead that the new mall will be a nice place to walk during other seasons.
“During better weather you would be able to actually come to the site and walk through the site and visit the various stores on site,” Lee said, pointing to a map showing the plan's sidewalks. “We are proposing numerous sidewalks that will take you up to the additional retail stores in front of the site,” Lee said. “So we are proposing a very well-interconnected walkway throughout the site. Obviously, during better weather, it will be nicer to be walking around.”
Lee noted the developers are planning to create several “outdoor spaces” on the property, including several outdoor seating areas.
“The mall itself is being de-malled,” he said. “That we can’t do anything about.”