Restaurant News

Watley Out, Bauer In

New CEO For RCN

Expansions

Law Firm to Fleet?

Deaths

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

vitality.

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

Top Of Page
Restaurant News

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.

Top Of Page
Watley Out, Bauer In

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,

resigned.

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

community.

"Virginia Bauer will be an advocate and ensure that our administration

is responsive to the business community," said McGreevey in announcing

the change.

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.

Top Of Page
New CEO For RCN

RCN Corporation (RCNC), 105 Carnegie Center, Princeton

08540. David C. McCourt, chairman. 609-734-3700; fax, 609-734-7525.

www.rcn.com

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

new CEO.

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.

metropolitan area.

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.

Pharmacopeia Drug Discovery Inc. (PCOP), 3000 Eastpark

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.

Top Of Page
Expansions

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

services.

It was formerly known as Druker, Rahl & Fein. Mount Ritter is a CPA

firm.

The Mount Ritter Group PC, 1 AAA Drive, Suite 202,

Robbinsville 08691. Marguerite L. Mount CPA, managing principal.

609-259-6400; fax, 609-259-7070. www.themountrittergroup.com

Mercadien Group, 3625 Quakerbridge Road, Box 7648,

Princeton 08543. Conrad L. Druker CPA, managing director.

609-689-9700; fax, 609-689-9720. www.mercadien.com

Top Of Page
Law Firm to Fleet?

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

consideration.

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."

Hill Wallack, 202 Carnegie Center, CN 5226, Princeton

08543-5226. Robert W. Bacso Esq., managing partner. 609-924-0808; fax,

609-452-1888. www.hillwallack.com

Top Of Page
Deaths

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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