In an age of e-commerce, online shopping and millennials who prefer downtowns to strip malls, there is a glut of abandoned storefronts that were once thriving shopping centers in New Jersey.

But now, Assemblyman Ron Dancer, R-Ocean, is introducing legislation to energize the redevelopment of decaying commercial areas.

In 2017 alone, major retailers closed more than 5,000 stores across the country. In New Jersey, top brands including Staples, Sears, Kmart, JC Penney, Gap, Payless ShoeSource, RadioShack and Sports Authority have shuttered some locations.

Dancer's plan is to resuscitate these already-existing stores and malls.

"Redevelop is really an opportunity to retrofit, if you will, a lot of the existing vacant malls."

Closed stores means lost jobs and less tax revenue for municipalities and school districts. Dancer says his legislation is an opportunity to offer to municipalities the tools to redevelop. The legislation would allow a municipality to enter into a redevelopment agreement with the owner of these vacant office parks and malls, one that would allow a new use that meets this age of e-commerce.

"Each municipality under this bill would have the opportunity to negotiate with these redevelopers rather than mandate what the agreement has to be. So it would be mutually agreeable," says Dancer.

Dancer says what worked 40 years ago does not work now. That evidence is in these abandoned malls and storefronts.

Jen Ursillo is the midday news anchor on New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at

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