SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ-This isn’t the usual department store ribbon-cutting. When the doors to the new Stern’s department store at South Brunswick Square Mall open to the public this Saturday, Stern’s and parent Federated Department Stores will be ushering in a new retail design. “Our South Brunswick location is a prototype test store,” explains Jim Andress, president and COO of Stern’s.

Part of the protoype is its size: at 81,800 sf it’s about half the size of a normal Stern’s. “It will have a central checkout small store format with a new interior and exterior design and color scheme,” Andress continues. “It reflects our trend toward centralized checkout.”

The timeframe was another aspect of the project: “They were determined to open by Thanksgiving and the holiday season,” says Brian Ricklin, managing director of asset management for Strategic Resources Corp. of New York. SRC led the development effort and is the investment advisor to owner Phoenix Four Inc.

The Stern’s grand opening is also the next step in the rebirth of the 275,000-sf South Brunswick Square Mall. The new store is replacing a vacated Jamesway discount store, and the project included clearing out 11,000 sf of small tenant space and adding it to Stern’s to bump it up to 81,800 sf. Stern’s joins an anchor tenant complements that includes a Grand Union supermarket and Bloomingdale’s Furniture.

The property is now 94% leased, according to the Schultz Organization of Woodbridge, NJ, the leasing agent. Remaining spaces range from 900 to 10,000 sf. Stern’s projects first-year revenues for the new store in the $13 million to $15 million range. If that figure is achieved, it would compute in the area of $160 per sf in sales.

Geographically, South Brunswick Square Mall is located in the Route 1 corridor about halfway between New Brunswick and Princeton. “The area has very restrictive zoning, prohibiting development and very high land pricing,” says Frank Shea, senior leasing manager for SRC. “Existing development is well-protected from future competition.”

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