North Bergen’s latest shopping development along Tonnelle Avenue recently saw more stores open, with others expected for the beginning of 2010.
BJ’s Wholesale Club held its grand opening last month, when they officially opened their 115,595 square foot store to the public. Vitamin Shoppe, which has its headquarters in North Bergen, also recently opened up at the mall, which is located from 88th to 91st Streets along Tonnelle Avenue.
Applebee’s and El Polo Loco opened last year.
Vornado Realty Trust, Inc. has been developing the site for the last few years. According to North Bergen Town Administrator Christopher Pianese, the developer said the mall will be completed by 2010.
GameStop and Supercuts, which are located in the same building as the Vitamin Shoppe, are slated to open soon, said Pianese.
The stores that should open afterward include Staples, Pet Smart, T-Mobile, Sleepy’s, Payless ShoeSource, and lastly Walmart.
“The fact that you took a warehouse trucking facility and transformed it into 200,000 square feet [of] retail is a credit of where the town is headed along that corridor,” said Pianese.
Pianese said a large part of that transformation of retail space along Tonnelle Avenue has to do with North Bergen being an Urban Enterprise Zone, allowing businesses to charge only 3.5 percent sales tax. The funds that are raised in taxes go right back into UEZ municipalities. Pianese said that revenue raised in taxes will be placed in North Bergen’s UEZ trust fund and that it will be used in the future for continued improvements.
Mayor Nicholas Sacco said that the mall has been attracting people from all across the Hudson/Bergen County area.
“BJ’s had just about a record-breaking day on their opening day, so many thousands of people and their parking lot was completely full,” said Sacco. “[It’s] a very successful mall that’s of course helping us with our ratables, helping us with our UEZ zone. This helps overall security and other road improvements throughout the town.”
North Bergen plans to open a closed-circuit security camera system in their UEZ zones.
While the mall was under construction, so was the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s road improvement and widening project along Tonnelle Avenue.
Bergen County residents may come to the mall because their own stores are closed on Sundays.
“It would have been better if the DOT project was complete when [the mall] opened, but the DOT project is behind schedule and the mall is not,” said Sacco.
Pianese said that they originally thought that the two projects would be complete in conjunction with another.
The road widening project will also provide a dedicated left-hand turn lane into the mall at 91st Street, which will increase vehicular safety.
Officials pointed out that a similar turn-lane has been completed further south on Tonnelle Avenue at the Home Depot site and that the signals should be turned on shortly.
Blue laws may push Bergenites here
The old “blue laws” in neighboring Bergen County, which prohibit stores from being open on Sundays, may also draw more business to the mall. Bergen County residents who take advantage of this may also create gridlock.
“It’s going to be a headache,” said North Bergen resident Richard Grandos, who was shopping at BJ’s with his wife Jessica last week.
“It’s going to be bad even getting out now,” said Jessica. “They don’t have enough signs to direct you.”
On the plus side, Grandos said that the shopping complex was convenient to his home on 85th Street and that it will create more jobs for the community.
West New York resident Lucy Cano said that instead of travelling west she now has a closer place to shop, but wished there were better traffic lights to direct drivers.
Jackline Othineo of North Bergen said that she doesn’t expect traffic to be any worse than it was already.
“The road is being repaired,” said Othineo.
Tricia Tirella may be reached at TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com.