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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on April 12, 2000. All rights reserved.

Hopewell is Hot

E-mail: BarbaraFox@princetoninfo.com

With 1.8 million square feet being built at Merrill

Lynch’s Hopewell campus and the potential of from 1 to 1.5 million

square feet at a new national headquarters for RCN in Ewing or Lawrence,

the real estate picture for south of Princeton is looking good indeed.

Just where RCN will actually end up may be announced by the end of

this month, says Liz Thomas, an RCN spokesperson. The choices seem

to be Lawrence’s Union Camp site or Ewing’s Atchley tract. (A third

option for RCN is Carnegie Center West, but with this option RCN would

be leasing space, not owning it.) "Both Lawrence and Ewing have

been very cooperative and very eager to have RCN locate its headquarters

in the respective townships," says Thomas.

The preliminary site plan has been approved for Lawrence, and two

briefings have been held in Ewing for citizen input, one for leaders

of neighborhood groups, and another where the neighborhood leaders

reached out to the residents. "It was very positive," says

Thomas.

Meanwhile Merrill Lynch plans to start moving into the first building

on its Hopewell campus in September (see page 17). This, despite another

minor brouhaha over sewers. Merrill Lynch has its permits in place

for the construction it is doing on the east side of Scotch Road,

but Hopewell Township just passed an ordinance that would give it

veto authority over future construction on the west side.

The township committee and Mayor Marylou Ferrara insist that this

ordinance would not, in any way, affect the current construction project,

that they merely want to control property on the other side of Scotch

Road that backs up to a housing development and to land zoned residential.

Opposing the new ordinance, Merrill Lynch says it want to be sure

the township doesn’t intervene at the last minute to prevent hooking

up sewers on the current development. "The township passed an

ordinance that we believe oversteps their authority. We believe that,

if it were upheld, it would give them authority over not just the

west side land but also the east side campus," says Joe Cohen,

spokesperson. Mercer County and Merrill Lynch have gone to court to

overturn it. "In the meantime we are continuing our approved hookup

with the regional sewer authority, ELSA," says Cohen.

Countering the sewer stories were last week’s headlines trumpeting

the decrease in Hopewell property taxes that can be attributed to

the Merrill Lynch move-in.

Some think that the new arrivals are the most vehement objectors.

"The new arrivals who came from New York for the country atmosphere

are louder than the original homeowners," says Joseph Ridolfi

of Joseph R. Ridolfi & Associates on Nottingham Way. He predicts an

increase in business property values: "Merrill Lynch is going

to help residential development and that means retail," says Ridolfi.

"Look at Rosedale Mills. it went down the road and bought a corner

property. Yardville Bank wanted to get in the market. Hopewell Valley

Bank is there for the same reason. They want to be in the market when

these people come in — all potential customers."

Few are protesting development in Ewing, says Greg Caiola, the township’s

director of economic development. Although he is a professional optimist,

he does have some real good news. His township passed the ordinance

that could be used to seal a deal with RCN. The ordinance allows four-story

buildings on planned developments of 70-plus acres, a potential benefit

to the General Motors site as well as to the site RCN is considering

for its national headquarters.

"We will probably know by April 18," says Caiola. And even

GM’s old Fisher Guide plant, 84 acres on Parkway Avenue, has some

possibilities for redevelopment, Caiola quotes GM as saying. "Ewing

has had two farms deemed conservation land which could have been developed,"

says Caiola. "There is potential at the airport for movie theaters

and restaurants. If developments go in there, for the first time in

a long time we will be reaping some tax benefits."

Most important, Ewing Redevelopment Agency is working with Olden Avenue

on a redevelopment plan. "We are not trying to sugar coat it,"

says Caiola. "Olden Avenue was built piecemeal. Some businesses

have stuck through the thick and the thin of it. They have been there

since god was a pup."

— Barbara Fox


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