FREEHOLD –Freehold Township officials have approved the idea of re-zoning the Freehold Raceway Mall to allow theaters, arcades, bowling alleys and more.
At the July 13 Township meeting, Mayor Thomas Cook, Committeewoman Maureen Fasano, Committeeman Lester Preston and Committeeman Alan Walker voted “yes” on a motion to adopt the ordinance that will update the zoning and land use requirements in Freehold Township’s regional mall zones (RMZ).
The Freehold Raceway Mall, which is adjacent to Route 9, Business Route 33 and Route 537, is in a regional mall zone.
Business Administrator Peter Valesi said these changes are used to take common shopping malls and give them a modern approach with site pads and signs.
According to the ordinance, the zone update would allow the mall to have recreational areas such as movie theaters, arcades, bowling alleys, indoor climbing gyms, performing arts facilities, roller rinks and virtual reality centers. Other facilities would include possible educational spaces such as instructional school and studios, offices, restaurants, brewpubs and other brewery, winery and craft distillery facilities, warehouse clubs and child care centers licensed by the New Jersey Department of Human Services.
In addition, the ordinance also stated that storing new cars by dealerships that are located in Freehold Township will be permitted outside of the loop road of Winner’s Circle.
Colleges, universities, as well as medical, health and urgent care facilities are permitted in the RMZ-1 zone.
“Malls and their place in communities has obviously been changing and this change was accelerated by the pandemic,” Cook said. “That being the case, Freehold Township wants the Freehold Raceway Mall to continue to succeed and this ordinance provides them the necessary flexibility to meet the needs of their customers.”
While Cook, Fasano, Preston an Walker voted “yes,” Deputy Mayor Anthony Ammiano voted “no” and explained that he feels the mall should have a more broader plan for their long-term strategy.
“I felt the ordinance amendment addressed some additional uses and allowed for some small expansions of possible pad sites, but fell short of being a permanent and long-term solution for the property,” Ammiano said.
Malls have been facing the decline of stores the past couple of years, and now the coronavirus pandemic has caused several businesses to close. Some retail stores that have previously closed at the Raceway Mall are Lord & Taylor, Nordstrom, Sears, The Disney Store, Brio Italian Grille and Ruby Tuesday.