The former owner of the failed Burlington Center Mall described the failed 97-acre property as a “cancer” on the community that needs to be treated.
Steven Maksin, CEO of Moonbeam Capital, sold the mall to Texas-based real estate investment firm Clarion Partners on Thursday for just over $22 million. Moonbeam bought the property for $3.4 million in 2012 after mall owners defaulted on a $15 million mortgage.
“The cancer is the empty mall,” Maksin said Thursday. “It’s not going to be used as a mall ever again. It’s no longer viable. The cancer is the mall itself embedded in a beautiful body.”
The deal is expected to result in the demolition of the 38-year-old, 1.5-million square-foot facility but what happens next still appears to be up in the air.
Moonbeam had proposed a mixed-use development featuring industrial use, primarily warehouses for e-commerce, and a much smaller footprint of retail. Now Maksin said the township should work with Clarion, which he said specializes in commercial warehouse development. The company redeveloped another former industrial site in the township into a four-warehouse complex near Route 130.
“They bought it for strategic reasons,” Maksin said. “They own warehouse properties. That’s what they specialize in.”
A request for comment Friday from Clarion was not immediately returned.
Information in an internet brochure for Clarion sheds light on its development priorities.
“A typical e-commerce order can require three times more warehouse space than a traditional retail transaction,” the brochure said. “With every $1 billion in new e-commerce sales equating to 1.25 million [square feet] of new warehouse demand, an estimated 240 million [square feet] of new space will be needed for e-commerce alone over the next five years.”
Burlington Township Mayor Brian Carlin said Friday the ideal redevelopment for the site would be all retail but he said local officials are keeping an open mind.
“I think it is incumbent upon us to listen to the new owners to see what fits best in the community, Carling said.
Last year, local officials said they wanted a mixed-use redevelopment at the site to include some retail, perhaps some residential and industrial. But Carlin said Moonbeam had proposed putting 2 million square-feet of warehouses on the property which he said was unacceptable.
“They said that in order for it to work for them they needed four warehouses and up to 800 residences,” Carlin said.
Maksin confirmed Carlin’s assessment of what Moonbeam wanted. But he said Moonbeam’s decision to bail from retail property development on the site signals a shift of focus across his company with more than 800 million square feet of properties over 1,000 acres nationwide.
“We sold it as a land deal,” Maksin said about Burlington. “Nobody cared about the mall.”
Maksin said he believes retail development along the frontage of the site on Mount Holly Road with warehouses in the rear could be a viable plan. The site is located within two miles of Interstate 295 and the New Jersey Turnpike.
He said he still thinks the property will have a “bright and shiny new incarnation.”
“It’s the first step in transforming the old mall to something new and wonderful for the community,” Maskin said.