This is a continuation of our ‘Vacancy Survey’ series, please read Central NJ Retail Vacancy Rates 2014 – Part 1 here.

No new big-box vacancies were seen along the central corridors since the firm’s 2013 survey. Among the spaces absorbed over the past 12 months, the remaining 62,600-square feet in the long-vacant former Lowes building at Seaview Square on Route 35 in Ocean Township was subdivided between Big Lots and the Sky Zone trampoline park. Coupled with the aforementioned leases for AC Moore, Guitar Center and several smaller spaces, the vacancy rate in the once-struggling, approximately 800,000-square-foot outdoor center was lowered to just over 10%; the 65,000-square-foot former Value City building is the biggest single remaining space. Also on Route 35, indoor arcade Funtime America opened in a 27,000-square-foot Eatontown space vacated several years ago by Avalon Carpets.

Elsewhere in the region, big-box absorptions along Route 9 included two deals on the Freehold Raceway Mall ring road: Huffman Koos leased a 33,000-square-foot space that previously housed Marshall’s, as the once-bankrupt furniture brand continues its expansion under new ownership, and Bob’s Furniture opened in the 22,000-square-foot space once occupied by Office Depot. The two stores join fellow furniture retailer Raymour & Flanigan in the ring road strip. Additionally, Hobby Lobby opened its second location along the corridor at Friendship Plaza in Howell, taking the 20,700-square-foot former AC Moore space and approximately 50,000 square feet of adjoining vacancies. Hobby Lobby will soon be joined in the center by a World Class Shop-Rite, which took over the Pathmark supermarket and a portion of the Kmart store, both of which closed since the time of the 2013 survey. On Route 1 in North Brunswick, Crunch Fitness took the remaining 26,400 square feet of the long-vacant Office Depot in Commerce Center.

Besides the move of Shop-Rite into Friendship Plaza, other notable big-box leases involving new sites or spaces that were still occupied at the time of the firm’s 2013 survey included the openings of a 136,000-square-foot Target and 152,000-square-foot Costco at the new North Brunswick Town Center on Route 1; the signing of Whole Foods at Allaire Plaza on Route 35 in Wall Township, where the chain will take an approximate 40,000-square-foot space created from the recently closed Brielle Sports Club and adjoining small-store vacancies; and Nordstrom Rack’s deals for 35,000-square-foot spaces at Mercer Mall on Route 1 and the expanded Crossroads at Eatontown on Route 35 (anchored by Macy’s Furniture).

As accounted for in last year’s survey, other major big-boxes debuting on the corridors include the 150,000-square-foot Walmart Supercenter that just opened on Route 18 North in East Brunswick on a site previously occupied by Sam’s Club, a flea market and furniture store. This came on the heels of the April 2014 opening of a Walmart Supercenter on Route 18 South in Old Bridge (an area not included in the firm’s survey) on a site that previously housed a golf driving range and arcade.

“As we saw in northern New Jersey, the central region is experiencing somewhat of a revival in new development and redevelopment activity, as landlords move to capitalize on an improving economy,” Mr. Brunelli noted. At the junction of Routes 1 and 35 in Woodbridge, R.J. Brunelli is serving as exclusive leasing agent for Richmond Plaza, an approved 75,000-square-foot center. Just south of there on Route 1, the firm is also assisting Onyx Equities on the redevelopment of the Woodbridge Crossing power center, serving as exclusive leasing agent for the 33,300-square-foot former Circuit City space and over 10,000 square feet of smaller store spaces. Existing anchors include Burlington Coat Factory, Big Lots, Modell’s, and Party City. Further south on Route 1, leasing continues on the balance of the aforementioned North Brunswick Town Center anchored by Target and Costco, which is zoned for up to 450,000 square feet of space. Not far off the Route 1 corridor, R.J. Brunelli serves as exclusive leasing agent on Onyx’s major redevelopment and renovation of Plainsboro Plaza, a 215,000-square foot neighborhood center at the junction of Scudders Mill and Schalks Crossing Roads that is in the process of replacing its two anchors, with Planet Fitness just signed for one of the spaces.

On Route 9 and Lanes Mill Road, site work is under way on The Grove at Howell, a 290,000-square-foot power center whose anchor lineup will include an 88,000-square-foot BJ’s Wholesale Club. Also in Monmouth County, National Realty & Development Co. is now marketing The Shoppes at Middletown, a 380,000-square-foot, open-air town center that will be built on a long under-developed site at the intersection of Route 35 North and Kings Highway that currently houses the Spirits Unlimited liquor store with its landmark ‘clown’ sign.

– This is part 2 of our “Vacancy Survey” series, we will be putting up “Central NJ Retail Vacancy Rates 2014 – Part 3″ in the next few days, read Central NJ Retail Vacancy Rates 2014 – Part 1 here, or receive updates to your inbox for our retail realty news by subscribing to our newsletter here.

For copies of R.J. Brunelli & Co.’s central or northern New Jersey studies, please click here to contact us.