WAYNE — The former Toys R Us headquarters has “strong potential” to be a retail hub, but improvements to public transportation would make it more appealing to prospective tenants, according to a new study.
The 127-page report released this month says the Geoffrey Way property, which features a 621,000-square-foot office complex overlooking Point View Reservoir, is also suitable for flex space — a trending use for commercial sites.
The study by Medford Lakes-based BRS Inc. was funded through a $50,000 grant, which was awarded to Passaic County last year by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.
The county then partnered with the property owner, the township and William Paterson University to hire the planning consultant to do the months-long research.
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BRS looked at market growth and real estate data, as well as patterns in business vitality across six counties. Its team also polled the public in an online survey, finding a “significant interest” in the redevelopment of the 182.2-acre property.
The survey asked what uses would most likely attract people to the site.
The most popular answers were dining and recreation, and the least popular answers were education and amenities for senior citizens.
“Whatever the end use,” the report says, “survey respondents believe that public access to the land would benefit residents of Wayne Township.”
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The property was purchased out of bankruptcy for $19 million by Point View Wayne Properties, a limited liability company, in March 2019. The owner’s principal agent is also the president of Dobco Inc., a developer whose offices are now located there.
For several months, the township has negotiated with the property owner over the future construction of apartments at the site.
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That project, which was not examined as part of the BRS study, would have 1,360 units — 272 for low-income households.
But other considerations, particularly the exact location of the apartment buildings and their proximity to homes on Ridge Place and Woodhaven Drive, have stymied progress of the ongoing talks.
“Where the housing is going to go is the biggest issue,” Mayor Christopher Vergano said.
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About the results of the BRS study, he added: “I think all those things would work at the property. The conclusions certainly make sense.”
The study advised against the reuse of the site for offices.
“High inflation and the increasing probability of recession” in the next two years “temper expectations for demand for office space,” the report states.
But the demand for flex space “remains strong,” the BRS study concluded. Such use of the property would benefit from hybrid work arrangements and the “relatively low” inventory in the county of that type of real estate.
Experiential retail options, such as arcades, movie theaters and restaurants, show “promising trends,” especially for those 35 years old and younger — an age bracket that makes up 45% of the market area’s population.
Yet the site is somewhat isolated from bus terminals and rail stations.
Shuttle service to and from those stops would enhance access to the property, the BRS study concluded. The nearest commuter train depot, the Mountain View-Wayne Station on Erie Avenue, is 6.2 miles away.
Philip DeVencentis is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.