Prospective buyer pulls outlet center expansion plan

JACKSON — In a series of swift and surprising developments that appeared to catch Planning Board members off-guard and bewildered, plans to expand the Jackson Outlet Village, Route 537, have been shelved by Chelsea Property Group of Roseland, which is still in negotiations to purchase the property from its present owner, New Plan Excel Realty Trust Inc. of New York City.

The board was notified by letter of Chelsea’s decision to withdraw the application submitted by New Plan, which the board had approved one month earlier. The contents of the letter were disclosed at the board’s meeting on Nov. 26.

"We’re all disappointed," said board Chairman James Casella.

The expansion of the outlet center would have included two freestanding, full-service restaurants totaling 15,000 square feet and an additional 65,000 square feet of retail space.

Board member Ralph Sicuranza was at turns philosophical about the turn of events, and then upset.

"They’re going in a different direction," he said. "And instead of going forward, we’re going backward. I think it’s a slap in the face to Jackson; the town was really looking forward to those restaurants. We need those ratables, we need those restaurants."

Sicuranza expressed curiosity as to the motivations of both New Plan and Chelsea as well.

The application for the expansion "might have been done to make the deal more appealing to the new buyers. I hope it wasn’t a ploy," he said.

In a subsequent telephone interview, Michelle Rothstein, vice president of marketing for Chelsea Property Group, read a statement that she said was issued by the company in the wake of its sudden decision to withdraw the application for expansion of the shopping center it seeks to purchase.

She said, "Based on the configuration of the expansion plan, we chose not to proceed."

Rothstein confirmed that although Chelsea has not yet closed on the deal, she expected it to be announced shortly. She had no comment as to why representatives for Chelsea and not New Plan Excel Realty Trust Inc. had asked to withdraw the approval.

Planning Board members did not explain why the letter from Chelsea, which does not yet own the property at the intersection of Route 537 and Route 571/526 near Interstate 195, was accepted even though the sale has not yet been finalized.

In other business, the board approved an application for a final major subdivision of the K. Hovnanian adult community of the Four Seasons at Metedeconk, Sections 2A and 2B, containing 190 residential lots and five open lots. Approval was made pending installation of a traffic light at the intersection of Harmony and Jackson Mills roads, according to Scott Woltenkind, a spokesman for the development.

— Joyce Blay