Wachovia Bank’s just announced move to Trenton is a real coup for the city, which has not had a large corporate move-in for decades. The bank’s regional headquarters is currently located on Scotch Road in Ewing. Matrix Development Group signed Wachovia to be anchor tenant at the five-story office building that is under construction at the corner of East Front and South Broad streets.

It could be the real beginning of the Trenton Renaissance. If you listen to Mayor Douglas Palmer, developers are elbowing each other out of the way to build in the city. The city has not had such an optimistic outlook in 20 years, say the planners.

Palmer is almost ready to announce a massive project to renovate the Bell Telephone building on East State Street and build a 20-story skyscraper next to it. He persuaded Earvin "Magic" Johnson to invest in this deal that will try to get preliminary approval from the planning board on Monday, November 28.

It seems the famous basketball star visited Trenton to talk to inner city youth, and Palmer elicited a promise from him to invest monies from his Canyon Johnson Fund, which Palmer says has almost $1 billion. "The mayor engaged him in a conversation about development. That’s when he promised to invest and would come back," says Gonzales.

Meanwhile Tanisha Laird, the new director of economic development for the city, brought in New York City-based Full Spectrum, known for its energy efficient "green development" policies. Full Spectrum will develop the project that will take up half the block from Montgomery to East Hanover and could have 270 to 300 apartments plus office and retail space.

If approved, the telephone building will be renovated for residential uses this spring and the Bank of America will move down the street from 200 East State Street. It will be a temporary move, until the skyscraper is finished. "It will be the tallest building in town," says Dennis Gonzalez, assistant business administrator for Trenton. "This is a city. We want to create a city. The way to accommodate more office space and residential units is to go up. We want to keep the nice little row houses – nice brick structures are part of Trenton’s history – but have an urban blend."

John Elkington, known for transforming Beale Street in Memphis, is the power behind a $45 million project on South Broad Street near Sovereign Bank Arena. To be known as the Foundry, it could have 84 housing units, 14,000 square feet of retail, and 40,000 square feet of entertainment that could include restaurants headlined by, for instance, B.B. King and A.J. Foyt. It is slated to go for planning board approval in January.

Also in the works is a $35 million renovation to the old Broad Street Bank building. Long Island-based Bayville Holdings Corporation targets 2007 for converting it to 122 residential units and 13,000 square feet of retail space with parking and a rooftop garden.

On Warren Street, Lambertville-based Woodrose Development is renovating the Caola Building to create a mixed-use commercial, retail, and luxury loft development. More residential redevelopment is taking place at Park Place in Mill Hill, the Ice House in Chambersburg, the Old Champale site, and the old Adams and Sickles Pharmacy.

The $52 million Trenton Train Station project is underway; the first contract, for underground infrastructure, is complete.

Wachovia’s move to Trenton is slated for the first quarter of 2006; it signed a 10-year lease. Approximately 125 employees at the southern New Jersey headquarters on Scotch Road will move to the top three floors of a building that has a total of 66,500 square feet of rentable office space, including 10,000 square feet of retail space. It was designed by Stephen S. Cohen, an architect on Moran Avenue in Princeton.

"Our move to downtown Trenton is consistent with our commitment to support the revitalization of the cities where we live and work. We are proud to support Mayor Palmer’s efforts to revitalize our state capitol," says Susanne Svizeny, southern New Jersey regional president for Wachovia Bank N.A.

Wachovia is taking the same space that a Carnegie Center-based law firm, Hill Wallack, had originally wanted. Then the developer was the non-profit Economic Development Corporation for Trenton. But construction lagged behind schedule. Hill Wallack reversed its decision and renewed its lease at the Carnegie Center for a term that started in October, 2004.

At that point Palmer importuned Joseph Taylor, CEO of Matrix Development Group, to take over the project, and Taylor took the lead to sign Wachovia. "I literally begged him to finish the job," says Palmer. "He worked it and worked it and met with people from Charlotte to tell them to come here."

Matrix closed on the project on October 27. "Matrix assumed some of the debt on the building and provided some funds to the Economic Development Corporation to pay project-oriented debt," says Palmer.

"People now see Trenton with new eyes," says Palmer. "We have always been in the center of everything but people now see business opportunities, great housing stock, a reduced crime rate, and a stable city government that has had successes in bringing a Marriott and attracting sports teams – as well as the 1,500 homes we have built, which have helped removed neighborhood blight."

The state, Palmer says, "finally understands that in a city of 7.7 square miles, where they control two square miles, that eliminating surface parking lots makes sense. It creates private sector jobs and a market for market rate housing."

For instance, the parking lot behind the justice complex will be developed for town houses, and the Department of Correction will move out of 12 office buildings in Hiltonia to make room for upscale homes.

Gonzales offers another reason for developer interest in Trenton: "The private market recognizes that there are fewer opportunities in rural and suburban New Jersey, and to make money they need to go to the cities. Every time we add one little piece it is easier to add the next piece. Even if a new development struggles, it is still better to have done it."

AAA Expands

Mack-Cali Realty Corporation is developing an operations center for AAA Mid-Atlantic at Horizon Center Business Park in Hamilton. AAA has preleased 8,790 square feet of the 33,962 square foot building set on 9.5 acres.

When the new space is completed in 2007, AAA will move there with about 300 employees from two offices, one at 2 South Gold Drive and another on AAA Drive. The new location can hold up to 500 workers.

"Our retail travel office will remain on South Gold Drive," says AAA spokesperson Tracy Noble. "It is right on Route 130, and our members know that location."

After the move, Mack-Cali will then reacquire three existing office buildings and surrounding land from AAA, with approval to redevelop the property into 243,000 square feet of commercial space.

The three additional properties include a 13,800 square-foot office at 6 South Gold Drive, 7,915 square feet of which is leased by PARS Engineering; a 36,000 square-foot office building on 17 acres at 3 and 5 AAA Drive, with approvals for development into 161,000 square feet of commercial space; and 2.4 acres of land at 6 AAA Drive that can be developed into 32,000 square feet of commercial space. The new office enables AAA Mid-Atlantic, which serves 990,000 members in 11 New Jersey counties, to keep its workforce in Hamilton.

AAA Midatlantic, 2 South Gold Avenue, Hamilton 08691. Janice Foster, general manager. 800-374-9806; fax, 609-890-1596. Home page: www.aaamidatlantic.com

Able Labs Sale

The US Bankruptcy Court in Trenton is scheduled to award bids for the assets of Able Laboratory on Monday, November 7. If no one bids higher than the $21.5 million offered by Aurobindo Pharma USA, Able Labs has an agreement with Aurobindo to execute some of Able’s contracts and to assume its unexpired lease at 1 Able Drive in Cranbury. Currently Aurobindo, a generic drug manufacturer based in Hyderabad, India, has an office at Princeton Meadows Office Center.

Stock in Able once traded as high as $25, but after the scandal over falsified laboratory tests and forged records, it was forced to stop production by the Food and Drug Administration, and it closed down in July. The stock is worthless.

Able has $2.6 million in cash on hand and owes $28 million. George Jordan of the Star Ledger reports that three drug wholesalers – – AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson – are the largest creditors.

Aurobindo declined to discuss the possible transaction.

Aurobindo Pharma Ltd., 666 Plainsboro Road, Suite 210, Plainsboro 08536. Prasada Reddy Kambham, vice president. 609-716-1190; fax, 609-716-1142. Home page: www.aurobindo.com

Fired

Mercer County Community College, 1200 Old Trenton Road, Box B, Trenton 08690. 609-586-4800; fax, 609-587-4666. www.mccc.edu

A five-month investigation into spending practices and financial accounting at Mercer County Community College by Mercer County Inspector General Robert Farkas concluded with the MCCC board taking a vote to fire the president on Monday, October 25. The MCCC trustee board gave Robert R. Rose six months’ salary, or about $77,000, as severance. Represented by Kevin Hart of Stark & Stark, Rose was supported by the 130-member faculty association. Concetta Maglione went on record as the only trustee who opposed the board’s decision.

New in Town

Infinite Computer Solutions Inc., 3371 Brunswick Pike, Suite 116, Lawrenceville 08648. Raghu Rajagopal, senior manager, business development. 609-716-8600; fax, 609-716-8160. Home page: www.infics.com

Infinite Computer Solutions, a IT solutions and services provider, has opened a Princeton office at 3371 Brunswick Pike, Suite 116. The company provides services including datawarehousing, middleware development, and web-enablement of legacy applications to the telecom, finance, and healthcare industries, among others.

Sipka, 7 Deer Park Drive, Suite M4, Monmouth Junction 08852. Raj Thangaraj, owner. 732-274-9006; fax, 732-274-9007. Home page: www.sipkalabs.com

Raj Thangaraj moved his firm from Edison to Princeton Corporate Plaza late last summer. With four employees, he does contract work for pharmaceutical firms.

Spyrus, 11 Deer Park Drive, Suite 121, Monmouth Junction 08852. 732-329-6006; fax, 732-329-6211. Home page: www.spyrus.com

A San Jose-based firm with software and hardware for public key and encryption security products opened a field office at Princeton Corporate Plaza. Founded in 1992, it also has offices in Canada and Australia.

Crosstown Moves

Arts Council of Princeton, Princeton Shopping Center, Princeton 08542. Jeff Nathanson, executive director. 609-924-8777; fax, 609-921-0008. Www.artscouncilofprinceton.org

The Princeton Arts Council has temporarily moved its facilities to the Princeton Shopping Center next to Eckerd drugstore. It expects to remain there for 18 to 24 months, while the new Michael Graves-designed Paul Robeson Center for the Arts is renovated and expanded. All classes and special gallery events have moved to this location except for the ceramic studio, which is at the Princeton Business Park in Rocky Hill.

In addition to newly extended business hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, the Arts Council will open a retail section following the annual Sauce for the Goose holiday art sale on November 10. The store will offer art created by local artists, as well as supplies and gifts.

Expansions

Phytomedics Inc., 1085 Cranbury South River Road, Suite 8, Jamesburg 08831-3410. Bertold Fridlender, CEO. 609-655-0715; fax, 609-655-0552. Home page: www.phytomedics.com

Phytomedics, which develops plant-based dietary supplements and other products, has moved from 65 Stults Road, Dayton, to 1085 Cranbury South River Road in Jamesburg. Phone and fax remain the same.

It does research on plant sources for new drugs and supplements, and also for synthesis of existing drugs.

Business Crossing LLC, 3490 Route 1, 15B, Princeton 08543. Keith Shroff, owner. 609-452-5199; fax, 609-452-5198. Home page: www.businesscrossing.com

Business Crossing, a provider of software services to the healthcare, financial, and other industries, moved and expanded its offices this month from Broad Street in Trenton to 3490 Route 1 in Princeton. Phone and fax have changed.

Management Moves

Keep Middlesex Moving Inc., 100 Bayard Street, Second Floor, New Brunswick 08901. William Neary, executive director. 732-745-4465; fax, 732-745-7482. Home page: www.kmm.org

William Neary succeeds Peter Cantu as executive director of this nonprofit transportation management association serving employers, municipalities, and developers in Middlesex County. Like Cantu, Neary has been a mayor; he was chief executive of East Brunswick for eight years. He grew up in Old Bridge and went to Franklin College.

Leaving Town

Nextran, 303-B College Road East, Princeton Forrestal Center, Princeton 08540. Marvin L. Miller, president and CEO Baxter/Nextran. 609-243-0009; fax, 609-520-1235. Www.baxter.com/xenotransplantation

Nextran, a subsidiary of Chicago-based Baxter Health Care Corporation, has closed its office at 303-B College Road East. A Baxter spokeswoman said the division, which conducted research on cross-species transplants, is now owned by the Mayo Clinic.

DineIn, 168 Franklin Corner Road, Building 2, Suite 105, Lawrenceville 08648. 609-912-1333; fax, 609-912-1536. Www.dinein.net

DineIn, a provider of direct marketing services, has closed its office at 168 Franklin Corner Road in Lawrenceville. The phone is disconnected and the URL is for sale. No further information was available.

Deaths

Ruth Hollinger Robertson, 65, on October 19. She had been a department manager at Princeton University.

Amel Stark, 91, on October 24. He was one of the founders of Stark & Stark law firm and a U.S. bankruptcy judge for the District of New Jersey.

Elizabeth Neilson, 78, on October 29. She worked at Gallup & Robinson, McGraw-Hill, and Educational Testing Service.

H. Guy Smith, 83, on October 29. He had been a controller in the research and development department of Bristol-Myers Squibb.

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