PART 1: What Is The "Rustic Mall" In Manville?

PART 1: What Is The Rustic Mall In Manville?

By Manville.Today
May 10, 2024

As part of a multi-part series, we will be covering Manville's recent "Resilient Communities Grant" application, and the effects it will have on all Manville residents. Before we get into the details, we want to provide the history about Rustic Mall, why it was demolished, and why it's important to be on the tax map for the Borough of Manville, especially for newer residents.

The "Rustic Mall" is the large vacant property located behind Main Street. You can see it when you drive north on Main Street. It's behind the row of businesses as you head toward Walmart, before the underpass. It has the potential to be one of Manville's largest tax parcels, which is especially important when flood buy outs continue to increase over time.

The Rustic Mall was originally developed in the mid-1960s, at the former site of the closed Federal Creosote plant. The plant was in operation from 1910 until the mid-1950s. The original part of the mall contained a "K-Way" discount store, among other retail shops.

Original Rustic Mall in Manville

Before it closed, Manville resident favorites included FoodTown and Drug Fair. And, who can forget Dollar Express? That was literally the first dollar store we experienced! There was also a bowling alley called Manville Lanes. The Rustic Mall was a focal point of Manville.

Photos of the Rustic Mall before demolition

In 1999, the Rustic Mall was added to the National Priorities List, as it was declared a "Superfund Site". Creosote contamination was found in at least 2 feet deep of soil samples taken from the location. Some contamination was observed as deep as 14 to 35 feet below the surface. The EPA needed to remediate the property, as it had the potential to become a health issue.

The mall was eventually closed and demolished including the main strip mall building, a separate two-story bank building, the building that housed the former Manville Lanes bowling alley, as well as several smaller businesses.

Photos of the Rustic Mall during demolition

After the land was cleaned up and remediated by the EPA, it was time to begin discussion of redeveloping the land so that it could be used again. Negotiations between the Borough of Manville and the owners of the Rustic Mall went on for many years.

In 2014, plans were presented for the redevelopment of the Rustic Mall. It would become a "mixed-use" property. It would include several buildings on the land, including housing and retail stores on the bottom floors of several buildings. Here is what the proposed plan was:

Photo of 2014 Rustic Mall Plan

Photo of 2014 Rustic Mall Plan - Building Layout

However, as a consequence of the 2014 election, Borough Council flipped to Republican control in 2015. When the control shift occurred, the redevelopment plans were scrapped.

The "Rustic Mall" remains vacant to this day. It's Manville's most valuable piece of real estate left, as it encompasses over 12 acres, is not in a flood zone, and has the potential to generate significant tax revenue for Manville.

Generating tax revenue from this large parcel of land is VITAL. As homes in flood zones continue to get bought out via the Blue Acres program, Manville loses tax revenue.

This loss of tax revenue then shifts to the remaining residents and taxpayers. In recent years, our property tax bills continue to rise. Some residents are feeling squeezed by the ever-increasing burden of property taxes.

The Rustic Mall would be best suited to be developed into a mixed-used property, and does our Mayor & Council agree? Or, would the Rustic Mall become a mostly "tax-free" zone, being classified as Municipal land?

Let's dig deeper into what plans the current Mayor & Council have in store. This is a lot of material to cover, and is a very important issue facing Manville. We promise to break it all down for you so that it is easy to understand, and know what potentially could be happening in the not too distant future.