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STAFFORD TWP., NJ-The Walters Group, a Barnegat-based developer, has completed its acquisition of a 320-acre former landfill site slated for redevelopment with mixed uses, according to company president Edward Walters Jr. As reported by GlobeSt.com, site plans call for a 650,000-sf retail complex, 565 age-restricted residential units, 110 affordable housing units and 25,000 sf of office space.

The acquisition, from the township, culminates three years of negotiations with township officials, the state Pinelands Commission, which regulates development in the region, and various environmental groups. “We have reached a meeting of the minds and were able to clear objections and move forward without any opposition,” says Joseph DelDuca, Walters’ general counsel.

“The level of relief is indescribable,” DelDuca says. “It’s been an unbelievable, monumental effort by our entire organization to get this done. There were so many hurdles that you wondered at times whether we would ever cross them. At this point it appears that we’ve crossed them all.”

The deal also involved the transfer of development rights under the state’s “regional growth area” designation of the Pinelands region. “In this case, we’re purchasing a near-record number of ‘transfer rights’ known as Pinelands development credits,” DelDuca says. “This will equate to the preservation of no less than 1,300 additional acres in the Pinelands. This redevelopment is by legal definition ‘smart growth’.”

Simultaneous to the acquisition, financial details of which were not released, Walters has started site work for the first phase of Stafford Park, as the project has been named. As part of its agreement with the township, Walters will undertake a cleanup of the former landfill, an effort that is estimated to cost $31 million. The deal also calls for the township’s recycling facility, Ocean County and municipal offices and an animal shelter to be relocated within the property at a cost of $1 million. Traffic improvements are expected to get under way early next year.

As far as the centerpiece retail component, Target has signed on as the main anchor, slated to start construction next June and planning to open its doors in the summer of 2008. The site plan calls for three major anchor stores, eight mid-sized retail tenants and a dozen boutiques and eateries in a village-center theme. Also on tap is a recreation area that will include a 71,000-sf twin ice skating rink.

“We will have a critical mass of retail and residential,” DelDuca says. “There is retail now in Stafford, but it’s spread out. Our project will be easily accessible with close proximity to the Garden State Parkway.”

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