Officials hope to create a town center on the Wayne Hills Mall property as part of a dynamic redevelopment plan that was unveiled this week.
Town Planner John Szabo discussed the plan at a Planning Board meeting Monday. The hallmark of the plan is to redevelop a 180-acre section of land between Church Lane and Alps Road into a town center with commercial and residential properties. The land contains the Wayne Hills Mall and several other commercial properties.
Officials said the Wayne Hills Mall is “aging” and “obsolete.”
There are many strip malls and plazas, including the Willowbrook Mall, but they are spread throughout the 25-square mile town. The same thing can be said of the township’s dozens of parks and residential neighborhoods.
“Having a central area where people can go, it brings people together. People like to have a place to gather and go to events too,” said Caryn Loberto, president of the Tri-County Chamber of Commerce and vice chair of the Wayne Economic Development Commission.
“I think if we had one, we could offer other, different events. People want to know there is sense of community where they live.”
The residential units could be located above stores in a promenade style or located in separate buildings.
The area could contain many walkways and points of entry for mass transit connections.
Areas of town zoned for research and development woulc be rezoned to allow mixed-use building, including hotels, conference centers, and a golf course, to be constructed.
Officials also want 150 to 200 residential units built on Route 23 and on Black Oak Ridge Road near the dog park that’s being built. The plan also calls for the development of a transit hub in the Mountainview section of town.
“There is a lot of potential in Wayne for development,” said Todd Ullrich, the chamber’s treasurer.
“You have a lot of areas that can be worked on for sure. Up until now, a lot of people have been just going through the motions regarding development now you’re starting to see real change.”
Officials are anxious to see the plan put into action.
“If we don’t do something now, none of us will be able to afford to live here anymore,” said Mayor Chris Vergano.
Ullrich said the Great Recession has a lot to do with not just the lack of development in town and the $21 million of the tax base the town lost last year due to appeals.
“Until the economy really stars t turn around and gets better, it’s going to be a struggle,” Ullrich said. “If you look at the business community as a whole, it’s still not great. It’s going to take a long time to recover and there’s not going to be a quick fix.”