Wal-Mart, Lowes Home Centers and Sam’s Club are said to be among the big-box retail names lined up for a new 811,197-sf shopping center planned by AIG Baker for a 204-acre site adjacent to the International Trade Zone on Route 46. ITZ is a Federally designated foreign-trade zone and accompanying business park developed by the Rockefeller Group. It’s one of the biggest concentrations of foreign-based companies on the East Coast and its workforce should provide a solid captive audience for the mall. The mall proposal is slated for presentation to township officials tonight for final approval, which is expected by most observers. Development cost has not been announced pending approval.

As part of the deal, several portions of roadway will be turned over to the developer so that the site can be reconfigured. This will allow the shopping center to be positioned for maximum off-site exposure and enable road improvements to be made. In return, AIG will give Mt. Olive $400,000 over the next three years and will fund some of the road improvements, according to council president William Sohl. The council is said to have no immediate plans for the cash, although open-space retention and infrastructure improvements could be on the agenda.

The developer, based in Birmingham, AL, has also filed an application with the state for some $3 million in grant money to build a connector between US Highways 46 and 206. The mall is expected to generate upwards of $2.2 million a year in new tax revenues.

There has been some opposition to the undertaking, most of it related to the additional traffic that would be generated. Besides the ITZ, the new project isn’t far from the highly successful Rockaway Town Center in Rockaway. In any case, most of the issues were resolved during the negotiating process, which extended over several months. The township is also said to be buying up nearby property as a means of limiting further growth.

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