A 650-acre West Windsor property, formerly the home of American Cyanamid, was to become a mixed use development anchored by an upscale shopping mall. But now, reports Globe Street, a publication that covers the commercial real estate industry, the property’s owner, Chicago-based General Growth Properties (GGP), has put the now-vacant industrial R&D campus on the market.
GGP is a family-owned company. It began with one grocery store in Iowa and grew to include some of the largest, most glitzy shopping malls in the country. With its stock price down 97 percent this year, GGP, founded by the Bucksbaum family, could be forced into bankruptcy if it can’t renegotiate loans by Friday, December 11.
The rapid decline of GGP is being seen as another sign of a downturn with few precedents. “The Bucksbaum’s losses show how the 2008 financial crisis is hitting not just risk-loving Wall Street firms and leveraged startups but also well-established, family-run companies with histories of conservative growth,” the Wall Street Journal wrote on December 9. “The crisis has sparked the most rapid and severe destruction of wealth in recent history, rivaled only by the Great Depression, when the number of millionaires plunged by an estimated 75 percent.”
“GGP has quietly hired Grubb & Ellis to find a buyer for the property,” according to GlobeSt.com. The property contains 450,000 square feet of R&D and administrative buildings. It is being marketed by Ben Shapiro, senior vice president in Grubb & Ellis’ Edison office.
GGP inherited the property in 2004 when it acquired the Rouse Co. The latter had purchased the campus in June of that year for just $35 million from pharma giant Wyeth, which itself had picked up the former American Cyanamid agricultural research campus in 2002. Just six weeks after Rouse closed on the property, Rouse agreed to be acquired by GGP.
At one point, GGP was in deep negotiations with Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom’s to anchor a proposed mall for the site, according to GlobeSt.com’s report, but both of those chains subsequently opted for locations at Kravco Simon’s adjacent Quakerbridge Mall as part of that center’s 600,000-square-foot expansion.
The site’s various buildings were constructed between the 1950s and 1998 and total 750,000 square feet. The R&D/administrative portion now on the market consists of 450,000 square feet, and it is unclear whether any of those buildings would be part of a redevelopment. The site is bordered by Route 1 and Quakerbridge Road, and is bisected by Clarksville Road.
Shapiro says, “General Growth would like to sell this property on an ‘as is, where is’ basis and, as such, they will entertain all reasonable offers.” An asking price has not been released.
GGP’s tenuous financial state is bad news for its shareholders and for its malls across the country, but it could be good news for the Princeton area’s two enclosed malls, both of which are planning major expansions and renovations.
Quaker Bridge mall’s owners have confirmed that their plans to add two upscale stores — Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus — as anchors to an expanded mall, complete with a three-level parking garage, are on track. Just north on Route 1, Market Fair, which has done well with a homewares-centric theme, has announced that Michael Graves has been chosen to give the mall a facelift.
His work is due to start just after the first of the year, and will be followed by an expansion that is expected to add two restaurants and several more retail stores.