Developer Wants to Breathe Life Into Dead Towne Center

Will oversee development project of once-thriving shopping hub.

Officials are happy to see the beginnings of a process that could breathe life back into an area of town that has remained stagnant for years.

Vornado Realty Trust has apparently purchased the rights to develop Wayne Towne Center, a shopping complex next to the Willowbrook Mall that has remained underdeveloped for years. A representative with Vornado said in an e-mail that the company “is not making any comments on the transaction or plans at this time.” City officials said that at present, there are no applications for use or zoning variances for the site on file in the building department.

But the Bergen Record reported Feb. 9 that Vornado has purchased a leasehold interest in the site for $12.1 million from San Francisco-based Wells Fargo and Co. 

“It was once a vibrant retail center,” said Councilwoman Lonni Miller Ryan. “Now it will create a synergy with Willowbrook and make it an even more desirable shopping destination for people.”

The Center, formerly known as the West Belt Mall, housed an indoor shopping mall from its founding in the 1970s until the late 2000s when Borders Books and Music, Daffy’s and Old Navy left the Center. Fortunoff, one of the Center’s anchor stores, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and closed their mall store down in 2009. JC Penny is the only remaining anchor store remaining. The main structure has since been demolished. A fence was placed around the now-empty land, a stark reminder of the vibrant shopping center that used to be located there.

An Olive Garden, TGIFriday’s, which used to be located in the Center, DSW Shoe Warehouse and a Bahama Breeze, have been constructed in the Center’s parking lot.

The 50-acre site, located near Routes 23 and 46, has an assessed value of more than $16 million. The buildings on the site have an assessed value of more than $6.6 million. The town collected almost $2.3 million in taxes on the site last year.

“It is definitely good news because the property has been in trouble since the demise of Fortunoff and we thought it was going to be developed by someone else,” said Councilman Joseph Scuralli. “I’m glad to see that the place is going to be redeveloped and I’m hoping they go forward with constructing restaurants. I’m interested to see strong development that would be good for the town and good for the tax rolls.”

The majority of the township is already developed so redevelopment projects such as this one provide an opportunity for the town to increase its ratable base without having to purchase land or enter into a costly development project of its own.

“Projects like this are exactly what Wayne needs,” Ryan said. “Its proximity to the highways make it a natural for this large-scale development. I feel that Wayne Towne Center has the ability to bring the right ratables to the right place for the township.” 

What would you like to see built on the property? Let us know in the comment box below.

raised in wayne February 16, 2011 at 01:16 AM
What happened to Dick's Sporting Goods?
Daniel Hubbard (Editor) February 16, 2011 at 03:01 AM
It is on the Wayne Towne Center sign, but nowhere to be found on site.
Daniel Hubbard (Editor) February 16, 2011 at 11:32 PM
What would you like to see built at the Wayne Towne Center? A bowling alley? More restaurants? Any specific retail stores?
Tre February 27, 2011 at 04:24 PM
Also, where is Ulta? I would like to see some variety - new stores that are in other parts of the country but not here ie Steinmart etc. I would also like to see a Whole Foods, similar to what they did at the Bergen Mall or a Wegman's. That way shopping and food shopping can be tied together.
Tre February 27, 2011 at 04:25 PM
By the way this was a very informative article!
Jane Slater October 24, 2012 at 01:45 PM
I would to like to see a community center devoted to the arts. Wayne is a large community-there are many artists and creative people here who have to go to other venues to learn, display and practice their art. An art school, a museum, an auditorium, all with plenty of parking, which appears to be easily obtainable there, would enhance this community. It could be a gathering/learning place for our kids in town too. There could still be some restaurants connected to the site, altough I think we have plenty already. Whether that would make enough money for the developer, or the Town, is not something I would be able to predict. Jane K. Slater


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