Vacant Properties, Empty Buildings Are a Common Site in Town
Officials wrestling with ways to get more businesses to move to Wayne and have the businesses that are already here stay.
The storefronts are vacant. Their windows only display dark, empty interiors now.
Piles of debris and dirt litter other sites. Fences and “no trespassing” signs warn residents to keep away.
Empty businesses, torn down buildings, and properties for sale are becoming more common in town.
Stores still have not returned to Mountain View Boulevard. Some stores, such as Kenny’s Pit Stop, left or closed down after Tropical Storm Irene and never returned.
The former Dodge dealership off of Route 23 North remains vacant. The Fortunoff building still stands on the Wayne Town Center property. The businesses closed down years ago.
Piles of dirt have covered the Wayne Town Center Property for years. Property owners were slated to present a redevelopment plan to the Planning Board last year but pulled the application.
There were plans to redevelop the underutilized Wayne Hills Mall into a new downtown hub a few years ago but the plans fizzled out.
“We have to find a way of making the township as business-friendly as possible with reasonable taxes,” said William Hense, chairman of the Wayne Economic Development Commission. “They want an employee-friendly environment.”
While Wayne does not have a center of town like many North Jersey municipalities, it does have several plazas and malls that can be built up and marketed.
“There’s not many municipalities that offer a hospital, a university, a fantastic school system, a major mall. We are very self sufficient with what we have. We have it all,” said Council President Nadine Bello.
Some people want to see some of these areas landscaped and improved.
“It would be great if there was a place where you could just go and park your car for a few hours and walk and spend an afternoon,” Carla O’Connell said outside of Starbucks in the Preakness Shopping Center. “The plazas are great and they offer a lot of choices for people but there’s something nice about just walking around and enjoying the day out.”
“You could get something like that where the Wayne Hills mall is,” Bello said. “You could have shops and people could walk and spend time down there. It’d be a win-win.”
There were plans to transform the Mountain View section of town off Route 23 into such an area but the plans were never fully realized.
“It’s a very charming area. I would love to see shops built down there on the side of Fayette Avenue where the train is,” Bello said. “You have the train right there and could easily have a Starbucks or any number of places right there. Unfortunately, we deal with flood after flood down there.”
The closing, downsizing, and relocating of businesses such as Van Peenen’s Hostess, Bayer, BAE Systems, and others have made it difficult for officials to market the township as a place where businesses can succeed.
“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Bello said. “There are many great and positive things about Wayne that most businesses find very attractive.”
Hense said that business owners should find a way to get young adults and teenagers to spend more money in town. Some businesses allow William Paterson University students to use pioneer bucks, money that the student has in an account or on-campus meal plan, at their businesses.
“There’s tremendous purchasing power when it comes to students,” Hense said. “We have to find a way to make that kind of stuff and those kinds of businesses available to students.”