August 1, 2006

NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ-North Brunswick TOD Associates, LLC has acquired the 212-acre former Johnson & Johnson campus and its 1.2 million sf of building space here from the pharmaceutical giant. J&J, based in nearby New Brunswick, moved its local operations to other locations and has effectively vacated the sprawling campus.

North Brunswick TOD Associates is a Kendall Park, NJ-based affiliate of Garden Homes and Garden Commercial Properties, both of which are based in Short Hills, NJ. The terms of the sale have not been released.

For the short term, North Brunswick TOD Associates is putting the site's 1.2 million square feet of warehouse, office and lab space on the market for lease on a short-term basis. The new owner has given the assignment to find tenants to the Teterboro, NJ-based Lee & Klatskin Associates.

"This property is well-suited to a variety of tenants," says Chuck Fern of Lee & Klatskin's Edison, NJ office. "We can subdivide the property into spaces ranging from 30,000 to 900,000 square feet. We have already seen tremendous interest in this property."

For the longer term, however, the new owner has a grand design of turning the site into a mixed-use transit village. According to Jonathan Frieder, managing partner for the ownership group, concepts being explored include everything from a rail station, to a mix of office, retail and residential space, a hotel and a civic component that would include a township library, an amphitheater and a police sub-station.

In terms of location, the property is bordered by both U.S. Route 1 and the Northeast rail corridor used by Amtrak, Conrail and NJ Transit. It's about halfway between the existing Princeton Junction and New Brunswick commuter rail stations.

To help focus the long-term redevelopment plans, which John Taikina, North Brunswick TOD Associates' director of planning and development, terms "preliminary," the group has launched a series of open public workshops with local residents and public officials. "Input from several public workshops is central to how our proposed plan continues to take shape," Frieder says. "The plan is still in an evolutionary stage and will be further refined by the comments and insight we expect to gather. We decided from the start to involve all stakeholders."

Initially, at least, the plan is to keep the redevelopment within the same footprint as the existing former J&J facility. "Keeping the footprint of redevelopment equal to the area of existing development will retain approximately 50% of the site as open space, a sort of 'green belt' around the transit village," Frieder says. "Green grass areas along Route 1 will remain as they now appear."

After incorporating public input, the next step is to take the redevelopment plans before the township council and planning board to formalize a zoning amendment. According to Frieder, his group also expects to work with the New Jersey DOT to get transit village designation for the site from the state, which would pave the way for the new rail station.                   

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