Corrections or additions?
These articles by Barbara Fox and Jack Florek were prepared for
the July 28, 2004 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Life in the Fast Lane
The Gale Company, which acquired Princeton Forrestal Village for the
second time last fall, is investing $12 to $15 million in hopes that
the property may have as many lives as the proverbial cat.
"This is probably the third life for Forrestal Village," says
Frederick Knapp, vice president of property management. "Any retail
environment and office product has a cycle. Those cycles force you to
change, move, and adopt market standards for that time."
As a part of its plan to inject vitality into the property, the Gale
Company purchased a restaurant liquor license from Plainsboro Township
for $660,000 last month. The company is negotiating with an Irish
pub/sports bar franchise that also has a heavy family component, and
an international brand-name steakhouse. An announcement is expected
later this summer.
The Village’s short first life began in 1987 as one of the first
outdoor living mixed-use environments. Developer Scott Toombs aimed to
attract affluent customers with high end retail stores.
But it quickly ran into problems and was put into receivership. The
Gale Company (then known as Gale & Wentworth) helped reposition it as
an outlet retail mall in 1991 and actually owned the property from
1995 to 1998. This began the Village’s second life, and its heyday
lasted from the early to the late 1990s. "There was very little
competition," says Knapp. "Our office populations were over 95 percent
and the retail occupancy was well over 90 percent."
As the 1990s progressed, along came WalMart and the other stores in
the Nassau Park shopping center, attracting customers away from the
Village. "The traditional inline strip-mall with a large parking field
and two anchor, large-box stores was easier to understand for the
retail tenant," sways Knapp.
In the four years since the new century began, Knapp says that it has
been no secret that the Village has had some tough times. This has
resulted in some higher-than-normal vacancies within the Village’s
retail spaces. The current retail occupancy rate has dropped to around
70 percent. The good news is that its office occupancy has remained in
the 90 percent range.
Despite the Village’s economic problems, Gale, in partnership with
equity investors, acquired the property for the second time in August,
2003. "We saw opportunity in a new marketplace and in the architecture
and engineering characteristics," says Knapp. "We are preparing for
what will be a new cycle."
From the retail perspective the Village is packed with potential. More
than 1,800 office workers, all potential customers, commute to there
daily. The hope is that the multiple office uses and professionals who
work in the area will stay and shop, bring their kids to Gymboree, get
an ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s, and stay for dinner. "It is an attempt
to promote the synergistic needs of clientele who are already a
captive audience, and to attract a new clientele," says Knapp.
He adds that there are some 75,000 residents living within a few miles
of the center. "The residential population of the Plainsboro and
Princeton area is also a tremendous demographic, and the draw for both
the office user and the retailer is a tremendous opportunity," says
Knapp. According to Gale, the average income of these potential
customers is around $128,000. There are also 95,000 employees within a
five-mile radius and 87,500 college students.
The evolution of the Village is taking place in two phases, says
Knapp. Phase one, accomplished last year, was the repositioning and
flexibility of some of the zoning from strictly retail spaces to a
wider variety of businesses. Phase two is the attempt to generate
additional life and vitality and opportunity into the property.
The 700,000-square-foot center, includes the Westin Hotel, the Market
Hall Food Court, and four main buildings. Divided by Main Street,
which serves as its main retail corridor, the A, B, and D North
buildings are three stories tall with the first floor serving as
retail and the second and third floors as office space.
The big difference has been in building C. With no office component,
it serves as a food court and is about 50,000 square feet. "It is our
squarest, most open floor-plate, and is the most architecturally
advanced, with several skylights and an open atrium," says Knapp.
Rockingham Row, a pedestrian thoroughfare, is where some of the
biggest changes are happening. "We re-identified and realigned our
core retail and office and added a mixture of professional zoning and
opportunities to the village," says Knapp.
Currently under construction, Rockingham Plaza’s 13,000 square feet
will house a variety of businesses – including doctors, dentists,
chiropractors, and sports medicine professionals, as well as
educational and training facilities. Occupancy is expected to begin in
October or November.
Ed Klimek, of Witherspoon Street-based KSS Architects, is designing
changes to Rockingham Plaza worth $2 million. The second floor
interior will include a new line of windows, where formerly there was
just a brick wall, adding about 60 percent more natural light and
front to back visibility.
There also will be a new pedestrian bridgeway from the center of the
parking deck into the center of the building on Rockingham Row. The
building also includes a 25-foot vaulted open gabled ceiling and
modern energy management controls. Structural and maintenance repairs
will be made to buildings that have been exposed to the elements for
the past 17 years.
In order to become more visible to motorists on Route 1, Knapp says
that the Village is reassessing its signage and visibility, as well as
its access to parking, promotability, events, and the general life and
Despite its hard times, Knapp is optimistic: "We see tremendous
opportunity, but we need to overcome some of the inherent failures of
what Princeton Forrestal Village has experienced and learn from
today’s new developments and standards."
– Jack Florek
Just as a new chain restaurant opens at Princeton Forrestal Village,
one restaurateur expands in Princeton and two others scale down. Jack
Morrison, proprietor of the Blue Point Grill and Nassau Street
Seafood, will open the restaurant planned for the five-story building
being constructed adjacent to the Princeton Public Library. Meanwhile
Jean Gaffney closed Nassau Street’s Sally Lunn Tea Room in order to
concentrate on her original location in Chester.
And after 35 years in Kingston, Merrill Zinder hopes to sell Goodtime
Charley’s to a chain with a similar name, Charlie Brown’s. The popular
Kingston eatery is expected to remain open continuously, and most of
the employees hope to stay. Zinder retains his other restaurant in
Mount Holly, Charley’s Other Brother.
Zinder, whose initial enterprise was a toy store on Nassau Street,
bought the Millstone Inn on Route 27 in 1969 and expanded it twice,
first with a design by Short & Ford (now Ford Farewell Mills &
Gatsch), and most recently by Chyun Associates in Research Park. At
age 75, recovering from a quadruple bypass operation, Zinder has
decided to scale down, says Gabe Baffuto, restaurant manager.
Will Charlie Brown’s continue to operate on the site of the Palmer Inn
on Route 1 South? "They say that if both continue to make money, they
will leave it open," says the 60-year-old Baffuto, who has worked for
Zinder since 1970.
Though Jack Morrison’s Blue Point Grill is a BYOB restaurant, his new
downtown restaurant, to be located in Witherspoon House, would use the
liquor license that he bought when Les Copains closed. As yet unnamed,
it would have 144 seats inside and could have outside tables on the
plaza as well.
Robert Powell of Nassau HKT Urban Design Associations on Nassau Street
is the developer of the project, which includes the Spring Street
Garage, the Witherspoon House and another mixed-use building, and
public open space.
Virginia Bauer, former director of the New Jersey Lottery, stepped up
to the post of CEO and secretary-designate of the state Commerce and
Economic Growth Commission when the former CEO, William Watley,
The Commission has about 109 employees and a budget of $16 million.
The CEO’s job pays about $137,000. Bauer will also replace Watley as
co-chair of Prosperity New Jersey, along with Shirley Tilghman,
president of Princeton University, and William C. Weldon, CEO of
Johnson & Johnson.
A psychology major at Rosemont College in suburban Philadelphia, Bauer
had worked at Merrill Lynch in the early 1980s in Westfield. As a
financial planning and account management executive, she was one of
the top sales producers, one of the first women, and one of the
youngest people to serve in her position.
She left Merrill Lynch to raise three children. Her husband, David
Bauer, worked at Cantor Fitzgerald and was killed in the World Trade
Center on September 11, 2001. She served on the Lower Manhattan
Development Corporation which chose the WTC redevelopment plan and her
work as an advocate for survivors of WTC victims brought her to the
attention of Governor James E. McGreevey.
Though Bauer had been with the lottery for less than a year, she had
directed the launch of Cyber Slingo, the nation’s first Internet
lottery game and refurbished the lottery’s overall marketing and sales
approach. She also created a speaker’s bureau program for the business
"Virginia Bauer will be an advocate and ensure that our administration
is responsive to the business community," said McGreevey in announcing
The conduct of Watley’s former chief of staff, Lesly Devereaux, is
being investigated because a no-bid consulting contract worth $500
weekly was awarded to Devereaux’s sister, Candace Harper. Watley is
also being questioned about a potential conflict of interest regarding
a construction loan for his church.
08540. David C. McCourt, chairman. 609-734-3700; fax, 609-734-7525.
David C. McCourt, founder of RCN Corp., is stepping down as CEO but
will retain the position of chairman and will lead the search for a
RCN filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May and expects to
emerge from bankruptcy later this year. McCourt’s choice of CEO needs
to be approved by the new equity holders.
Founded in 1997, as C-TEC, RCN is the nation’s first and largest
facilities-based competitive provider of bundled phone, cable and high
speed internet services. it delivers these services over its own
fiber-optic network in the Boston, New York, Eastern Pennsylvania,
Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles metropolitan markets. It also
holds a 50 percent interest in Starpower, in the Washington, D.C.
Last year RCN had a net loss of $499.1 million, and the loss
diminished to $56.8 million in the first quarter of this year.
Boulevard, CN 5350, Princeton 08543-5350. Joseph A. Mollica, chairman.
609-452-3600; fax, 609-452-3672. www.pcop.com
Leslie J. Browne is the new president and CEO of Pharmacopeia Drug
Discovery, Inc., a 170-worker company in Cranbury. Browne has a PhD
from the University of Michigan and was an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow at
Harvard with the Nobel laureate R.B. Woodward. His most recent jobs
were as COO of Iconix Pharmaceuticals, a chemogenomics company, and of
GeneTrace, a functional genomics company. Joseph A. Mollica retains
his job as chairman.
Pharmacopeia Drug Discovery spun off from the original firm,
Pharmaceopeia Inc.; it collaborates with biopharmaceutical companies
on drug discovery and has its own drug discovery programs.
After six months of negotiating, the Mercadien Group, with 70
employees, has merged with the Mount Ritter Group, a certified public
accounting firm with 12 employees. Mount Ritter will move into
Mercadien’s Quakerbridge Road headquarters.
In addition to account services, Mercadien offers asset management,
insurance, broker-dealer, outsourcing and technology consulting
It was formerly known as Druker, Rahl & Fein. Mount Ritter is a CPA
Robbinsville 08691. Marguerite L. Mount CPA, managing principal.
609-259-6400; fax, 609-259-7070. www.themountrittergroup.com
Princeton 08543. Conrad L. Druker CPA, managing director.
609-689-9700; fax, 609-689-9720. www.mercadien.com
Stymied by not being able to move to Trenton, Hill Wallack is hoping
to expand, instead, to a prestigious address within the Carnegie
Center, fronting Route 1 North – the Fleet Bank building.
"The transaction is not a done deal, but we have a keen interest in
it," says Robert Bacso, the law firm’s managing partner. "We believe
it is the most prestigious building in the Central Jersey area. It
would not have been our number one preference – that being a move to
Trenton – but at this point in time it is our number one option."
The much-heralded plans to Trenton’s Liberty Commons faltered, Bacso
says, when construction fell behind schedule. The 55-attorney law firm
has about 130 staffers and needs to expand from 40,000 to 45,000 feet.
The current lease from Boston Properties expires on October 1. Another
property in West Windsor and one in Hamilton Township have been under
John Buschman and Tom Romano of GVA Williams Buschman, who represent
the building, declined to comment on an unsigned contract.
"I have to be able to expand," says Bacso. "If and when we go to Fleet
Bank, we will be on third floor and a portion of the second." The
fourth floor holds what remains of Fleet, now Bank of America, which
will be Bacso’s landlord. Fleet also has a branch bank in part of the
first floor. "I think it’s a great building, and I am hoping that we
will put a bow tie on this soon."
08543-5226. Robert W. Bacso Esq., managing partner. 609-924-0808; fax,
Dominick Solazzo, 58, on July 8. Formerly a manager at Merrill Lynch
in the pension planning department, he owned a house painting company,
Illusions in Paint.
Dorothy K. Stonaker, 76, on July 8. She had been deputy tax collector
for Princeton Township.
William Stackpole, 78, on July 11. An attorney, he had also worked as
a clinical counselor at Right Associates.
Pamela L. Larson, 48, on July 14. She was a manager at IT Travel of
Princeton at Airport Place.
Frederick H. Hautau, 73, on June 15. A copywriter and creative
director, he had worked at QLM at Research Park.
Robert S. Rura, 66, on July 18. He had worked at Princeton Plasma
Physics Laboratory and RCA Space Satellite division.
Robert "Robin" M. Kerney, 57, of multiple sclerosis on July 20.
The grandson of the founder of the Trenton Times, he founded, edited,
and published the Pennington Post (later sold to Media News Group) and
worked for the Office of Legislative Services.
Anna K. Jolly, 75, on July 25. She had retired from EMR Schlumberger
on Wallace Road.
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