| Times Herald-Record
TOWN OF MONROE – The real estate development and management firm that owns most of the Harriman Commons Shopping Center recently announced plans to redevelop the former rue21 teen clothing store into perhaps five to 10 new restaurants.
The “food hall” plan by Manhattan-based RD Management is part of a nationwide trend. Shopping center and mall owners, in recent years, have been creatively redeveloping brick-and-mortar retail spaces because research shows that America still has a considerable glut of stores.
The shopping center — which includes such stores as Target, Walmart, Home Depot and BJ’s — is located in the towns of Monroe and Woodbury, with the former rue21 at 290 Larkin Dr. in Monroe.
RD Management has yet to submit paperwork for any local approvals that might be necessary, including a potential Town of Monroe planning board application, said Thomas Mirandi, the firm’s vice president of real estate.
Plans call for overhead glass garage doors to open to a 3,300-square-foot outdoor patio, with 60 possible seats and 40 potential seats inside. The project’s costs are yet to be determined.
The final number of restaurants would depend on how much space tenants need. And RD Management projects the project could be done by next spring or summer at the soonest.
The food hall would only occupy nearly 2,000 square feet of the old rue21. America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses has leased 4,320 square feet of the location, which RD management subdivided after Pennsylvania-based rue21 closed its local store during a bankruptcy reorganization that ended late last year.
RD Management is currently seeking restaurants interested in the space — marketing it as a less risky way for existing restaurants to expand or for new restaurants to test their concepts, Mirandi said.
“It also gives people different kinds of choices, so there doesn’t have to be a big fight in the car about what to eat before they get there,” Mirandi added.
About one in six restaurants close within their first year — far lower than conventual wisdom based on faulty past research but still high — according to a 2014 study by researchers Tian Luo and Philip Stark.
RD Management began building the shopping center in 2000, and its been expanded multiple times. The firm owns and manages 706,230 square feet of the 814,660-square-foot property, while developing, managing and owning similar properties in 24 states and Puerto Rico.
Based on its 3.5% vacancy rate and consumer traffic, Harriman Commons is a healthy shopping plaza. But many retailers, shopping plazas and malls are unhealthy, multiple studies have shown.
Through the first half of 2020, a record 10,226 stores have closed or announced that they’ll soon close, according to BDO USA LLP, a professional services firm.
That tally includes 5,998 stores among bankrupt retailers (29 companies have filed for bankruptcy through mid-2020) and 4,228 store closures among retailers that are not bankrupt and have 50 stores or more — victims of increased online shopping, failures to innovate, being over-leveraged and less shopping during the coronavirus pandemic.