Flemington’s Liberty Village, the country’s first shopping center, to be redeveloped into housing

Flemington Borough Council passed an ordinance establishing the Liberty Village Redevelopment Plan”Which will transform the remarkable shopping center of the borough into mixed-income housing.

The plan, approved Monday night, is to redevelop the Liberty Village redevelopment area – which includes 10 lots and approximately 23 acres – into multi-family residential units and / or townhouses that will accommodate a mix of income and household sizes, according to redevelopment plan.

“While this (plan) is, I think, housing-focused, it allows for things like a performing arts center, offices, museums, rentals, retail, sales and services, restaurants … recreation and distilleries, “said board chair Caitlin Giles. McCormick said.

“We want these active uses and things to be done in this area,” said Giles-McCormick, referring to Route 12 and Stangl Road.

At a Monday night council meeting via Zoom, Flemington Mayor Betsy Driver said the redevelopment plan was created by members of the Borough Redevelopment Committee and the Borough Planner.

The area consists of the retail stores of Liberty Village Mall, a custodian / property manager office, associated parking lots and support lots as well as undeveloped vacant lots, located at the intersection of Highway 12, from Stangl Road and Church Street, crossed by the Black River and Western Railway, according to the redevelopment plan.

The area’s gross rental commercial space is 161,694 square feet, according to the plan.

Liberty Village Mall opened in 1981 as the nation’s first factory outlet mall. The center was hugely successful and expanded in the late 1990s; However, in the years that followed, the mall struggled to maintain its tenants and vibrancy, according to the plan.

These changes can be attributed to a significant new construction of retail space in neighboring Raritan Township in particular, but also to the larger region, the evolution of national retailing and current trends in retail. retailing best supporting online shopping, the plan notes.

The westernmost parking lot is used as a suburban parking lot for the Trans-Bridge Lines, which provide bus service to / from New York City, as well as overflow parking for businesses from detail of Liberty Village, according to plan.

Before the borough council adopts the plan, resident Colleen Rossetti expressed concern about the impact this plan will have on the bus stop located in the neighborhood’s west parking lot.

“This is our one and only transit site here in Flemington,” said Rossetti. “You can’t get to a lot of places, but at least there’s public transportation to get to New York or to the airport. I will ask you to pay attention to it.

The driver said a private bus rental company currently operates only two routes and stops at the westernmost parking lot in the area. It is not a bus station and the parking lot is not well maintained.

When asked what would happen to the bus stop, Driver replied, “This is a private business agreement between two private entities. It is not public. If it was New Jersey Transit, we would have a very different conversation about it, but it’s not New Jersey Transit.

Resident Joanne Braun said she was concerned the redevelopment plan would increase enrollment at schools in the borough.

“I certainly know that this plan is going to have an impact on schools because there are a lot more residents, there are a lot of residents there. I just want you to keep that in mind, ”Braun said.

Giles-McCormick said she believes the region faces many challenges due to environmental issues and changes in retail. However, she believes the plan moves the borough in the right direction.

Although the plan has now been approved, Driver said the borough does not yet have a designated redeveloper. So until he has one, it’s all sort of in the air.

“In the middle of the designation process and the development of the plan, a developer, George Vallone of Hoboken Brownstone, put the property under contract,” said Driver. “Although it is not known if he will be the ultimately designated developer, he will be invited to submit a redevelopment plan. If he is not interested, he will be the subject of a request for proposal.

Driver said there will be many more opportunities to discuss this plan, as none of this is going to happen quickly.

For more information on the plan, visit www.historicflemington.com/boards/liberty-village.

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Vashti Harris can be contacted at [email protected].