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PARAMUS, NJ-Locally based retail brokerage firm the Goldstein Group has been appointed exclusive broker for 7-Eleven throughout Northern and Central New Jersey. The national retailer is aiming to lease and purchase sites for its franchises.

“7-Eleven is one of the few national, regional and local retailers forging ahead with a very aggressive expansion plan for the New Jersey market,” Chuck Lanyard, president of the Goldstein Group, tells GlobeSt.com. “Negotiations are under way on over 40 sites which should open over the next two years,” he adds.

The retailer is looking to lease 2,400-to-3,000-square-foot freestanding buildings or end cap locations within strip malls, community and neighborhood centers, as well as central business district locations. The company is also seeking to buy 0.25-to-1-acre development sites.

“The Goldstein Group has been instrumental in the success of our development plans,” says Armand Keurian, senior real estate manager for 7-Eleven Inc. “They have been extremely proactive in finding us new locations.”

To his point, the Goldstein Group recently executed 7-Eleven leases in Lodi, Old Bridge, Butler, Elmwood Park, Englewood, Montclair, Perth Amboy, Verona, West New York, Hoboken, Mahwah and Newark.

In addition to 7-Eleven, New Jersey has seen an influx of health clubs and fitness purveyors in recent months, which could be due to a marked drop in lease rates, with prices off anywhere from 10% to 20%.

“Also, don’t be surprised to see more retailers close stores or file bankruptcy over the next few months,” says Lanyard. “The silver lining in all this turbulence is that, for the retailer looking to open a new business, there are now excellent opportunities to secure prime locations that normally weren’t available to them before. When the economy does rebound, they will already be there.”

For retail developers, though, options for sites remain limited in the state. Part of the difficulty lies with New Jersey’s high barriers to entry, which requires navigating a laundry list of government approvals and regulatory controls, from environmental permitting and cleanup to highway access. According to Ray Brunt, a company partner, who heads up the New Jersey office in Manasquan, “All of these different agencies, from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Environmental Protection, have a pace that does not usually correspond to that of a business.”

To its credit, the state has been more proactive in trying to spur development and there’s even talk of increasing the regional delivery of traditional government services. To that end, the 2008 Permit Extension Act, revised COAH laws and newly authorized Economic Redevelopment and Growth Grant program have, for the most part, been well received by commercial and even residential developers.

Perhaps Governor-elect Chris Christie can capitalize on some of the momentum created by these programs. According to Ted Zangari, a real estate development attorney with Newark-based law firm Sills Cummis & Gross PC and the founder of the Smart Growth Economic Development Coalition, the governor-elect has already done something to further project the image that New Jersey is open for business–at his first press conference, he announced a 90-day moratorium on proposed regulations. “If he follows that symbolic step with additional measures to make our state’s regulatory process more predictable, more certain and more transparent, then he will absolutely attract and retain more businesses,” he says.

One issue that needs to be addressed is the state’s zoning laws, which are archaic at best. As a result, towns still control much of their own development destiny, leaving the state with very little say. “Some municipalities are extremely tough to deal with,” relates Brunt. “For instance, if a town does not want a big-box store coming into the area, they are most likely going to win that battle.”

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