The Origins of a Shopping Haven
The story of Bridgewater Commons, a fully enclosed shopping mall in the heart of Bridgewater Township, New Jersey, began over three decades ago. Strategically located at the intersection of Route 202/206 and Route 22 and bordering I-287, this bustling mall has grown and evolved over the years to meet the ever-changing needs of its community.
Opening its doors on February 26, 1988, Bridgewater Commons boasted a gross leasable area of 900,000 sq ft (84,000 m2) and was anchored by traditional department store chains Macy’s, Hahnes, and Stern’s.
Over the years, the mall has expanded to include famous brands such as J.Crew, Abercrombie & Fitch, Loft, Aéropostale, and an AMC Dine-In Theatre.
The Early Days and Rapid Growth
The mall’s development can be traced back to the 1960s when a township redevelopment agency combined various plots of land in Bridgewater. The entire area was declared blighted, allowing the land to be sold to a single developer.
The Hahn Company, a California-based mall developer, signed a contract with Bridgewater Township in 1985, and Prudential’s real estate division later joined the development project.
In 1986, R.H. Macy Co announced plans to open a Macy’s store in the shopping center, replacing the originally planned Bamberger’s banner.
The company was retiring the Bamberger’s brand and converting its stores to the Macy’s banner. Bridgewater Commons opened its doors in 1988, featuring Macy’s, Hahnes, and Stern’s as its anchor tenants.
A Pioneering Spirit and Community Involvement
Bridgewater Commons has always been a mall that embraced innovation and community engagement. On June 18, 1988, the first Disney Store outside of California opened at the mall, marking a significant milestone in the company’s expansion.
Bridgewater Commons has been committed to promoting health and wellness within its community since its inception.
The HealthHike mall walking program, sponsored by mall management and Somerset Medical Center, offers walkers an indoor, secure, and climate-controlled environment to exercise. Participants in the program also have the opportunity to attend monthly meetings to discuss health-related topics.
The mall has a long-standing tradition of hosting annual Christmas displays, photo opportunities with Santa Claus, and Easter Bunny photo sessions around Easter time. These seasonal events have become cherished memories for many local families.
Expansion, Evolution, and the Introduction of The Village
In 2005 and 2006, the mall underwent an expansion to include a lifestyle center called “The Village at Bridgewater Commons.” This new addition, anchored by Maggiano’s Little Italy, brought 15 additional stores and restaurants to the mall’s impressive roster, creating an even more diverse shopping experience for visitors.
Bridgewater Commons has seen numerous changes in its anchor tenants throughout its history. Hahnes converted to Lord & Taylor in 1989, while Stern’s closed in 2001 and reopened as Bloomingdale’s the following year. In August 2020, Lord & Taylor announced they would close all their remaining stores, leaving a vacant anchor space at the mall.
New Dining Experiences and Entertainment Options
Bridgewater Commons has continuously sought to increase its entertainment and restaurant offerings. In 2010, AMC Theatres, The Cheesecake Factory, and California Pizza Kitchen opened at the mall, bringing visitors new excitement and variety.
Several new dining experiences have found their home at Bridgewater Commons in recent years. Shake Shack, the popular casual burger restaurant, opened its first Central Jersey location in The Village in 2015. Redstone American Grill and Mediterranean restaurant chain Cava followed suit, opening their New Jersey locations in 2016 and 2017.
In January 2019, McCormick & Schmick’s closed due to the expiration of their lease, but Mexican food chain Uncle Julio’s quickly filled the void, opening their first New Jersey location in the space in February 2020.
As a testament to the mall’s commitment to offering diverse dining options, Brazilian steakhouse chain Fogo de Chão announced in January 2023 that they would open a venue at Bridgewater Commons.
In March 2023, New York City-based eatery DIG, known for its scratch cooking and seasonal menus, opened its first New Jersey location at The Village at Bridgewater Commons. With a focus on nostalgia and home cooking, DIG’s arrival further diversified the mall’s dining options.
Transforming Vacant Spaces and Embracing the Future
Bridgewater Commons has shown resilience in the face of challenges and vacancies. In November 2021, Crate & Barrel, one of the main attractions at The Village, announced that they would be leaving the mall after deciding not to renew their lease. Once the well-known furniture retailer exits, the township intends to repurpose the building for medical use.
In December 2022, the town council gave the green light to a zoning ordinance for the space previously occupied by Lord & Taylor. This decision aimed to draw entertainment and amusement businesses like Topgolf or Dave & Buster’s to the location.
Conclusion: A Legacy of Growth and Community
Bridgewater Commons has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1988. Throughout its 35-year journey, the mall has continuously evolved, expanded, and adapted to its community’s changing needs and desires.
With a rich history and an exciting future ahead, Bridgewater Commons remains a cherished destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment for residents and visitors alike.