Central New Jersey Retail Market

Central New Jersey, which for the purpose of this feature, is defined between Interstate 78 to the north and Interstate 195 to the south, currently is seeing development flourish in its retail market due to growth and a general upscaling of the population. As a result of the state of New Jersey’s Smart Growth initiative, some recent trends include existing town centers being upgraded, with examples taking place in Plainsboro, where municipal offices are being included with retail. In Plainfield, a Chase bank branch has opened on the first floor of a new state office building, and in East Brunswick, the planned Golden Triangle development will be mixed-use. Along similar lines, transit villages are moving ahead across the market, with Piscataway and Cranford’s underway and Belmar’s in the planning stages. Belmar also is seeking to upgrade the retail component in its greater downtown area.

Lifestyle centers in North Brunswick, Old Bridge and Chester all are approved or under construction, and mixed-use projects are attracting more and more attention as well, as developers seek to bring retailers to the area by providing residential and office components. Further, retail is intensifying where it already exists; for example, Bridgewater Commons, a popular enclosed mall, is adding a lifestyle component. In contrast, some enclosed malls are completely transforming to outdoor retail venues.

Somerset Shopping Center, considered to be the first strip center in New Jersey, has picked up mall tenants such as Eastern Mountain Sports and Gap. This trend is being driven by extended visibility, greater shopping convenience and lower overall occupancy costs associated with outdoor retail venues as opposed to enclosed malls. Currently, throughout the market, rental rates average between the low $20s per square foot and the high $30s per square foot. Vacancy stands between approximately 3.5 percent and 4 percent.

As development continues to follow population growth throughout central New Jersey, several areas in particular are good examples of this trend. Along Route 9, there is land for residential growth, which ultimately will lead to retail as well, and retail is burgeoning as far south as Howell, located just below I-195. Shore towns such as Long Branch are seeing more and wealthier new residents, and Long Branch specifically is attempting to utilize eminent domain to take land for retail and residential gentrification.

Important developers in the central New Jersey market include Stanbery Development, Garden Homes, and Edgewater Properties, and new retailers such as Whole Foods, Golf Galaxy, Massage Envy, Maggiano’s, Uniqlo and Crate & Barrel have entered the market.

The shore towns of Long Beach, Asbury Park and Belmar should be the most interesting to watch. Furthermore, population and income growth will continue, and the jobs being created in the area should improve the market across the board.

— Robert Carson, vice president of operations, David Silver, corporate director of marketing, Dale Mulartrick, director of leasing, and Ethan Goldsmith, leasing representative, all of Levin Management Corporation, contributed to this article.

©2006 France Publications, Inc. Duplication or reproduction of this article not permitted without authorization from France Publications, Inc. For information on reprints of this article contact Barbara Sherer at (630) 554-6054.

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