FREEHOLD TWP., NJ-The planning board here has given its final approval to Developers Diversified Realty to build its Freehold Marketplace, a 400,000-sf power center in this western Monmouth County community. Officials of the Beachwood, OH-based REIT say that they expect to start construction on the project this summer, and hope to have it opened by the end of 2005.

Anchor tenants will include a Wal-Mart, which will occupy 150,000 sf, and a 153,000-sf Sam’s Club. Cost figures for Freehold Marketplace, which will sit on an 87-acre site along the Route 33 bypass here, have not been released.

The final version of the project is a somewhat scaled back version of Developers Diversified’s original 500,000-sf proposal. The reduced size still drew public criticism at last week’s planning board meeting, mostly related to traffic. For one thing, the Freehold Marketplace site is located adjacent to Freehold Raceway Mall, a 1.7-million-sf super-regional center owned by an affiliate of the Rochester, NY-based Wilmorite that is currently undergoing a 350,000-sf expansion.

As part of the planning board’s approval, Developers Diversified will be making a major contribution to local road improvements. At the planning board meeting, Karl Pehnke of the engineering firm Schoor DePalma, representing the developer, told the board and attendees that the company had agreed to pay at least $2 million to help fund such improvements. According to the traffic engineer, those improvements will include road widening, new traffic controls and a new turn-off.

The next step in the process will be the drawing up of a formal resolution by the board. That resolution is expected to be adopted at a special meeting of the planning board slated for later this month.

Developers Diversified’s current portfolio ranges across 360 retail properties occupying more than 82 million sf in 44 states. Freehold Marketplace will actually be the smallest of the REIT’s four properties in the Garden State. The others are the 732,000-sf Centerton Square in Mt. Laurel, the 866,000-sf Hamilton Marketplace in Hamilton Township and the 1.1-million-sf Nassau Park Pavilion in Princeton.

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