Committee Advances Measure Authorizing Conversion of Empty Office Parks & Shopping Centers into Mixed-Use Developments

With countless commercial buildings previously used for office space or shopping centers sitting empty throughout New Jersey, a measure sponsored by Assembly Democrats Louis Greenwald and Clinton Calabrese would facilitate the conversion of these structures into mixed-use developments comprised of both housing and businesses. The Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee advanced the measure on Monday.

Zoning regulations/ordinances often require the separation of residential and commercial areas, making it difficult for developers to combine housing and businesses in one development. The measure (A-1294) would create a two-year window in which these zoning restrictions would be eased for approved developers who plan to convert ‘stranded assets,’ such as empty office parks and retail centers, into mixed-use communities.

“Our State must rethink its housing strategies and goals in order to provide residents with more housing options,” said Majority Leader Greenwald (D-Burlington, Camden). “The millions of square feet of vacant office parks and retail centers throughout New Jersey are ripe for redevelopment. Incentivizing developers to convert them into mixed-use communities would increase our state’s housing supply and lower real estate prices to help us achieve our affordability goals.”

Developers would either redevelop or reuse the existing building(s) without expanding their square footage and would be required to set aside a portion of the residential units in the new development as affordable housing for low-income and moderate-income residents.

“Mixed-use communities offer economic opportunities for small businesses as well as comfort and convenience for families by providing one place in which residents can live, work and play,” said Assemblyman Calabrese (D-Bergen, Passaic). “In recognition of the many benefits these developments provide, this legislation will encourage developers to pursue these projects by easing outdated restrictions that would unnecessarily hinder them.”

The bill now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.