Monmouth Mall in Eatontown is undergoing a major transformation that will turn the traditional indoor mall into more of an open-air shopping experience complete with dining, entertainment, and apartments.
Kushner Cos. bought out their joint-venture partner Vornado Realty Trust for $38 million in 2015 and has now partnered with Rouse Properties, a retail real estate company with experience updating malls. “This is where malls are heading, and we need to transform it for the next generation,” said Kushner President Laurent Morali.
Called the Heights at Monmouth, the $500 million project is also an attempt to combat current consumers’ habit of staying home and shopping online, which continues to ail the retail industry. Monmouth Mall is still performing well and does not have large worrisome vacancies, but even popular shopping centers are redeveloping to secure their market share for the future.
The idea is that the more time spent at the mall means more dollars spent at the mall, so developers are creating lifestyle centers where consumers can shop, dine, and even work or live. Currently, the Monmouth Mall is 1.5 million square feet and development on the site could include up to 700 apartments, offices, indoor and outdoor dining, a food hall, a plaza for performances, indoor sports facilities, and a bowling alley.
Eatontown approved all zoning changes and is eager to ensure the fiscal future of their largest taxpayer. Last year, the Mall paid $5.1 million in county, borough, school, and library taxes. Nearly $1.9 million went to the borough.
The movie theater has always attracted people to Monmouth Mall, but Eatontown Mayor Dennis J. Connelly noticed last year during the holidays that not as many people were going to the movies. “Our town relies on the Monmouth Mall to survive, and we have for years. We need it to be successful today and in the future,” Mayor Connelly said.
Rouse Properties is certain of the success of the Monmouth Mall site because of its location and future unique offerings; “You have a lot of wealthy consumers living there year round and no critical mass center anywhere close. I knew it would be a home run if we created the biggest and best mousetrap in this area,” said Brian Harper, Rouse Properties Chief Executive.
The Heights at Monmouth will have an indoor market called Culinary Heights with high-end restaurants, bars, and shops. Plenty of walkways and terraces in the plan will create natural places for people to gather. Which current mall tenants will remain is yet to be determined by Kushner Cos. and Rouse Properties, but the transformation is well underway. “We need to make the mall evolve to the next iteration. Then we will be able to truly benefit from the existing community and its demographics and its shopping power,” said Mr. Morali of Kushner Cos.
The companies plan to have the new concept completed by 2020.