Potential town center buyer terminates purchase and sale agreement

Search is on for new redeveloper as pandemic causes Brandywine to back out

Brandywine Acquisition & Development has terminated its purchase and sale agreement to acquire the Voorhees Town Center due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, according to a statement from the real estate investment and management company.

Brandywine had been working with the Voorhees Town Center’s current owner, Namdar Realty Group, to acquire the property for redevelopment of the former Echelon Mall. In the statement, Brandywine said it was not able to reach certain required benchmarks during the pandemic in order to acquire the property.

“Unfortunately, due to the timing of the sudden COVID-19 outbreak in America running parallel with Brandywine’s obligations in the PSA to secure certain approvals and settle on the property, such deadlines are not feasible to achieve at this point in time,” the statement continued.

Voorhees Township Deputy Mayor Michelle Nocito is disappointed by Brandywine’s decision.

“We understand and acknowledge that the economic climate is challenging now and in the future for developers depending on how long [the pandemic] plays out,” she said.

Nocito stressed that Brandywine did not have any deadlines to reach with Voorhees Township in terms of acquiring the property, but that the termination of its purchase and sale agreement is due to negotiations between Namdar and the company.

“Those were not deadlines that had to do with the township,” Nocito added.

Voorhees Township had previously passed two ordinances and a Redeveloper’s Agreement in December, which authorized a financial agreement pursuant to the five-year exemption and abatement law for the construction of 180 townhomes. The agreement also required Brandywine to redevelop 100,000 square feet of the town center within five years after acquiring the property and receiving planning board approvals.

According to the statement, Brandywine indicated that it “hopes to be able to revisit the project when the normal course of business can resume.”

While the potential redeveloper’s termination of the deal leaves Voorhees Township without a redeveloper for the town center for the time being, Nocito said the municipality has already put in the legwork for the property to be revitalized.

“We are very optimistic,” Nocito noted. “The township has already invested time and planning into the future vision, so we are confident we will resume the redevelopment process immediately, because a lot of the fundamentals for declaring an area in need of redevelopment had already been done.

“At this point, we are committed to redeveloping the Voorhees Town Center Phase II Projects, which will involve preparing another RFP (Request for Proposal) for other redevelopers,” the deputy mayor said. “As the statement says, Brandywine alluded to the fact that they may want to work with the township in the future, which they are more than welcome to do.”

The township concluded a community survey earlier this year to investigate what businesses and attractions residents of Voorhees Township and surrounding communities would like to see at the location. Ideas have included a beer garden, an indoor Jake’s Place location and a municipal library.

Despite social distancing and stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19, Nocito assured that the township will still be able to operate as usual in the search for potential redevelopers and in discussing projects throughout the year.