Equus Capital Partners of Yardley, PA, has reached a deal with the New Jersey Conservation Foundation for the purchase of 240 acres of open space that are part of the company’s Technology Center at Princeton development on Carter Road in Hopewell Township.

Under the $7.5 million agreement, Equus would retain ownership of the Technology Center complex on the east side of Carter Road and a now-vacant commercial building on the west side, said Greg Romano, assistant director of NJCF.

According to Romano, NJCF has submitted an application to Hopewell Township to subdivide the commercial tracts from the open space portion of the property.

The deal would end five years of litigation between Hopewell Township and Equus. The company is disputing a conservation easement on the property that was part of an approval for some 800,000 square feet of commercial space. Equus argued that the conservation agreement no longer applies because the company abandoned plans for the commercial development and proposed building housing there instead.

In a written statement last year, the developer said that the commercial project was no longer feasible due to the slow economy and new environmental regulations.

The Princeton Technology Center includes a four-story, 215,000-square-foot building that was originally developed by Western Electric in 1961 as a world class research and development facility.

The property was also owned by AT&T, Lucent, and Townsend Properties, which sold the complex to Equus. Current tenants include Worldwater & Solar Technologies and Lexicon Pharmaceuticals. Also planning to move to the center is UTC Aerospace Systems (formerly Sensors Unlimited). A company representative said the company plans to move from its current office at 3490 Route 1 sometime in November.

Romano said that significant funding for the deal will come from Hopewell Township and Mercer County. Since funding from the state Green Acres program will also contribute to the purchase, the property will be permanently preserved as open space, according to Romano.

Additional resources are also anticipated from Princeton, Hopewell Borough, Lawrence Township, Pennington Borough, Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space, the D&R Greenway Land Trust, and Friends of Princeton Open Space. A private fundraising campaign has also been launched to raise capital.

Romano said the eventual owner of the tract has not yet been determined. Possibilities include Hopewell Township, the county, or a non-profit organization. It likely won’t be NJCF, he said, because the organization does not own any land in the area.

“The purchase will end concerns about traffic impacts from many thousands of daily commuter trips through the region if the land was developed as planned,” said an NJCF news release. “In addition, it will help eliminate the need to vastly expand the small historic crossroads at Mount Rose.”

Stephen Spaeder, Equus senior vice president, welcomed the end of litigation. “We are happy to be working with the NJCF toward completion of this transaction and applaud their efforts to date to identify funding partners. We look forward to the successful conclusion of this matter.”

The land includes farmland, forests, and tributaries of the Stony Brook, and is adjacent to other preserved farmland and open space owned by Hopewell Township and the Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space.

The acquisition will also help with the completion of the Lawrence-Hopewell Trail, a 20-plus mile bicycle and pedestrian recreational pathway that runs through public and privately owned lands in Lawrence and Hopewell townships.

“We are thrilled to help secure this significant property for future generations and are extremely grateful to the many partners who are helping to make this possible.” said Michele Byers, NJCF executive director. “I know how much people value their scenic landscapes, farms, and forests, and this is a special part of Mercer County that touches thousands of citizens.”

Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes said the deal is an excellent opportunity for land preservation. “With the continued growth and suburbanization of Mercer County, we are driven by a strong sense of urgency to protect the remaining undeveloped lands, and especially interconnected lands and ecosystems, before more development makes preservation impossible.”

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