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VINELAND, NJ-There are retail casualties in the current economic crunch in New Jersey, as there are elsewhere. Names like Circuit City–which is closing some stores in the state–bankrupt New Jersey-based Linens ‘n Things, a shuttered Boscov’s department store in Eatontown, among others, come to mind. But the news isn’t all bad in the state, which has a dense and affluent population that retailers like. Deals are still getting done.

For example, the Burnaby, BC-based Canlan Ice Sports Corp. has leased the 76,500-square-foot Vineland Ice Arena at 2111 Industrial Way here, and will operate it for owner Family Ventures LLC. “The rink in Vineland is part of our long-term plan for strategic expansion into US markets,” says a spokesman for Canlan, which will operate it for training, skating clubs, equipment purchases and the like. The deal was arranged for Family Ventures by the Philadelphia-based Binswanger. Details weren’t released, other than that the lease does include an option to buy.

More traditional tenants are signing leases as well. At the 100,000-square-foot Waretown Town Center in the Ocean County community of the same name, Metro Commercial broker Mark Gerlach has executed several signings. The broker of that firm’s Mount Laurel office is signing a total of more than 10,000 square feet on behalf of owner Coastal Redevelopment Urban Renewal Partners. New to the property are Dunkin’ Donuts, GameStop, Harvest Buffet, Vulcano Italian Restaurant and Great Clips–repped by Metro Commercial’s Peter Nicholson. All are expected to open in early 2009, joining the recently opened, 60,000-square-foot ShopRite supermarket.

“Waretown Town Center offers an alternative to the existing retailers in the trade area,” Gerlach says. “We expect the new retailers to cater to this increasingly diverse market.”

And up north in Morristown, European-style bakery and café operator Zebu Forno has signed on at 9 South St., taking 2,500 square feet to expand its franchise string to five units in the state. Franchisee Melione Fratello LLC’s operation will join operating units in Holmdel and Hoboken. Zebu Forno’s original and home store is in Red Bank, as a Freehold location is under-construction. The Morristown eatery will occupy part of a shuttered Footlocker store on the street level of a two-story building being revamped by new owners the Cavanaugh family.

And retail properties are still trading on the investment sales market, such as T&JK Associates’ acquisition of the 39,000-sf Town Square Shopping Center at 343-351 Matawan Rd. in Matawan. Tenants include Party & Play, Pizza Hut and Dunkin’ Donuts. The seller was a local group, and the deal was helped along with $3.5 million in permanent financing arranged by James Gunning and Donna Falzarano of CB Richard Ellis Debt & Equity Finance.

“The lender offered a competitive interest rate and the deal was executed as expected,” Gunning says. “The borrower was very satisfied with the terms and looks forward to their new banking relationship with Columbia Bank.”

And nearby in Sayreville, the Midland Park-based Azarian Group is renovating and expanding its 14-acre Raritan Center. The center will add a 10,000-square-foot pad building to house the Learning Experience child development center. The existing 60,000-square-foot center housing Drug Fair, Family Dollar, Reliance Healthcare and others is getting a substantial makeover to its façade, parking lot, lighting and landscaping.

“This project can be categorized as ‘smart growth’ as we’re revitalizing an existing 60,000-square-foot building and taking advantage of existing impervious coverage to expand the center,” says Matthew B. Jarmel, principal of Jarmel Kizel Architects & Engineers of Livingston. His firm is doing the architectural and civil engineering work for the renovation and expansion.

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