WESTFIELD, NJ — The pandemic may be accelerating the demise of an expansive department store on North Avenue.

Mayor Shelley Brindle said she has long prepared for the closure of Lord & Taylor’s store on North Avenue so when Reuters broke the news Tuesday that the retailer plans to liquidate merchandise at its 38 stores nationwide in anticipation of closing the locations, Brindle was ready.

“We’ve already begun the process of a redevelopment designation for their properties,” Brindle told TAPinto Westfield, noting that in addition to owning the Lord & Taylor property Hudson’s Bay Company owns two nearby parking lots. “And while we can all be crushed — as I am — about losing Lord & Taylor as we know it and as we’ve known it for a long time … we should feel really good about the opportunity for collaboration through the relations which we’ve established through Hudson’s Bay Company.”

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On March 10, the town council ordered studies to assess a series of properties in the downtown for redevelopment, including the Lord & Taylor property on North Avenue and the two parking lots.

“These potential designations do not necessarily mean that we will be proposing developments on any or all of these sites,” Brindle said at the council meeting. “But by designating them all, it allows us to take a strategic approach to identifying the best opportunities and locations for new parking solutions and revenue-generating residential, retail and commercial development.”

On Tuesday, Brindle said that while she had initially expected any closure of Lord & Taylor to come later than this, she was not surprised.

“I did think it was probably going to be inevitable although I thought it was going to be [farther] down the road,” she said.

In September 2019, the online fashion retail brand Le Tote announced its purchase of Lord & Taylor, and said it would reassess the retailer’s network of stores starting in 2021.

The press office for Hudson’s Bay Company did not respond to a request for comment from TAPinto Westfield Tuesday afternoon. A spokeswoman for Le Tote declined to comment.

Brindle said the Hudson’s Bay Company has been a willing partner with the town.

“There shouldn’t be any surprises,” she said. “It is their property to do with what they want, but I have to say in all of our conversations they have been amazing collaborators, and they are very interested in hearing what the community is saying.”

Email Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net | @MattKadosh

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