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BRIDGEWATER TWP., NJ-When Federated Department Stores announced earlier this year that it would replace the Stern’s department store at The Rouse Co.’s Bridgewater Commons Mall with a Bloomingdale’s, it set in motion an expansion and redevelopment plan that could take up to 18 months to complete. No price tag has been put on the project by Rouse, which is based in Columbia, MD.

The 900,000-sf Bridgewater Commons was opened in the late 1980′s by the California-based Hahn Co., now part of TrizecHahn. The Rouse Co., ironically one of the finalists to develop the mall, acquired it from TrizecHahn a couple of years ago when the company largely got out of the mall business.

Since then, Rouse has tweaked the property’s upscale tenant mix, adding names like Abercrombie & Fitch, Della’s, Richard Roberts and Naturalizer. But the conversion of mid-level Stern’s to upscale Bloomingdale’s is setting the tone for an expansion that will add 150,000 sf of small tenant space, expand the food court, add more decked parking and generally change the look of the property’s interior spaces.

“We are very excited about the prospects,” according to Rouse chairman/CEO Anthony Deering. “This retail center is already among the strongest performers in our portfolio, and with the addition of Bloomingdale’s, we expect to see continued growth.”

Company officials haven’t provided further details on the project at Bridgewater Commons, whose other anchors are Macy’s (225,000 sf) and Lord & Taylor (130,000 sf). It’s pre-expansion small-tenant roster number about 160.

Bridgewater Commons is located in central Somerset County at the intersection of five major highways (I-287, I-78, Route 202/206 and Route 22). With an average household income in the $110,000 range, Somerset is one of the most affluent counties in the country.

The development of the mall back in the ’80s is credited with having sparked the nearby development convenience shopping, two hotels and more than three million sf of office space. The latest office project is Hines’ 600,000-sf Bridgewater Crossing, which will be the new headquarters of Aventis when it’s completed.

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