"We’re the last exit in New Jersey," says Aubrey Haines, a commercial real estate broker with Mercer Oak Realty, of PrincetonSouth Corporate Center. PrincetonSouth is taking shape on 140 acres in Ewing. It fronts on I-95 and is a minute or two from the Scudders Falls Bridge into Pennsylvania. This is a location Haines believes has great appeal to companies whose workers are fed up with the parking lot that is Route 1 during rush hours.

In a game of Chinese checkers, companies are moving their offices south and west, jumping over congestion, away from high rents, and toward a good lifestyle for 9 to 5 workers seeking work-life balance, as well as their bosses, who need easy access to airports, and want easy access to their homes so that they can enjoy the little down time that they are able to steal from work.

Jerry Fennelly, owner of NAI Fennelly, says in his December report on the state of the Princeton office market that a big factor in demand for space in the coming years will come from even farther away than Route 1 – much farther.

He is looking toward Europe, where the price of building office space is more than 10 times what it is in central New Jersey – $3,000 a square foot versus $250 a square foot. "First come the families shopping and then come the institutional real estate shoppers trying to achieve the same savings," Fennelly writes in his report.

During the past holiday season newspapers were filled with stories of Europeans arriving in New York with empty suitcases, gleeful at the prospect of picking up jeans, iPods, and running shoes at a fraction of what they would cost at home. The same bargain shopping for real estate took place in the 1980s, says Fennelley, and he thinks the area is in for a repeat of that pattern soon.

At the same time, Steve Goldin, principal of Intercap, the transit village-oriented development company, is spending all of his time and energy trying to persuade towns along New Jersey’s rail lines that the way to both create a livable lifestyle and to lure companies from Manhattan is to create appealing mixed-use developments centered on train stations.

The board is set up, and logical moves for European companies include relocation to New York, while logical moves for companies in New York, where rents are being driven up by said European companies and a dearth of new construction, include relocation to suburbs such as Princeton and Hamilton, whose rail stations put them within an hour of midtown. Meanwhile, it makes sense for some companies in the heart of the Route 1 corridor to look at shorter moves to slip away from increasing congestion.

This last group is the target of PrincetonSouth’s marketing efforts. Haines points out that the new office park’s location not only frees workers at all levels from fighting through Route 1 traffic twice a day, but is also appealing to their bosses. These executives, he says, are already choosing to live in Bucks County, whose stone houses, rolling hills, and expansive farms make its towns among the most appealing on the East Coast. But it’s more than beauty that is drawing the top earners. Says Haines, "an executive making $750,000 a year pays $42,000 less in taxes in Pennsylvania."

Opus (www.opuscorp.com), a real estate development company with headquarters in Minneapolis, is banking on the location, too. It has obtained approvals for six office buildings at PrincetonSouth, totalling 740,000 square feet, and is building them on spec. One of the buildings began filling up in October, and nearly all of the space in the second building is spoken for, says Haines.

Early tenants include Computer Associates, which has moved into 100,000 square feet (U.S. 1, January 16), Valuation Research, formerly of Nassau Park, which has moved into 8,500 square feet, and Berkely Life Sciences, a newly-formed insurance company with a specialty in underwriting policies for pharmaceutial and related companies, which is preparing to move into 8,500 square feet in April. Mercer Oak, Haines’ commercial real estate brokerage, has also moved its office into Princeton South.

"If we leased all the space on which we have proposals out," he says, "we would have very little left." So far, 266,000 square feet of space has been constructed. The larger building, at 153,000 square feet, is complete, while the second building, at 113,000 square feet, is "almost move-in ready."

Ground breaking for the third building could take place in the spring if enough of the companies that have shown a serious interest in leasing actually follow through.

In addition to the office buildings, the complex has pads for four restaurants, says Haines, who envisions "white tablecloth" dining in the not too distant future. He has been in discussions with upscale restaurant chains, and thinks that a steak house would do well in the Ewing location, too. Compared with Lawrence and West Windsor, he says, Ewing is very light on chain restaurants.

At $34 a square foot, plus electric, PrincetonSouth is in the same price range as Class A office buildings on Route 1, which, says Haines, are now asking between $34 and $36 a square foot. The new corporate center is offering the same type of amenities found in top-end Route 1 office complexes, including a fitness center, a cafe, and an 80-seat conference center that is available at no charge to all tenants.

Haines predicts that the I-95 corridor near Pennsylvania will be to the first decades of the 21st century what Carnegie Center was to the last decades of the 20th century. Away from a congested stretch of Route 1 and within swimming distance of lower-tax Pennsylvania, it is still close enough to Princeton to get away with carrying its name.

Mercer Oak Realty LLC, 200 Princeton South Corporate Center, Suite 100, Ewing 08628; 609-452-0200; fax, 609-452-7878. Sab Russo & Aubrey Haines. (www.merceroakrealty.com).

CA (Computer Associates) (CA), 200 Princeton South Corporate Center, Ewing 08628; 800-225-5224. Mark Thompson. (www.ca.com).

Valuation Research Corp., 200 PrincetonSouth Corporate Center, Ewing 08628; 609-243-7000; fax, 609-883-7651. John Gruenemeier, senior vice president.

Berkley Life Sciences, 2445 Kuser Road, Suite 201, Hamilton 08690; 609-584-6990; fax, 609-588-5770. (www.berkleyls.com).

Helping to Navigate College Admissions

During 30 years as director of financial aid at Princeton University, working right down the hall from the admissions department, Don Betterton was privy to hundreds of conversations on the ever-shifting criteria for entry into a top tier school. After his retirement, Betterton drew upon his insights and opened a business to offer advice to college bound students and their parents.

Actually, demonstrating the intiative and hard work required of the successful college applications he counsels, Betterton opened two businesses. The first was a branch of Howard Greene and Associates (www.howardgreeneandassociates.com). The second was Betterton College Planning (609-737-7377.)

Howard Greene, based in Westport, Connecticut, is a 40-year-old full service educational consulting company. Its founder was an admissions officer at Princeton who, along with his son, Matthew Greene, has written a number of books on the admissions process. They include "Scaling the Ivy Wall," "Making It Into a Top College," "The Public Ivies," and "Making It Into a Top Graduate School."

Howard Greene offers extensive, ongoing services to high school students for a fee of about $7,000. It refines an appropriate list of colleges, helps in the preparation of college applications, critiques essays, prepares the students for interviews, aids in the selection of the best college after acceptances roll in, smooths the transition from high school to college, and helps the new freshmen to select their first college courses.

Greene, like Betterton, is a Dartmouth alumnus. Betterton, who graduated in 1960, went through college on a Navy ROTC scholarship. "We were a family of modest means," he says. The scholarship money helped with the bills. Besides, he says, he was interested in joining the military. The Navy’s help with his college bills meant that he was required to serve in the Navy upon graduation, and did so as a pilot. He first came to Princton as a Navy ROTC instructor, and then moved over to the admissions office. He remained in the Naval Reserve as he worked at Princeton, retiring after 25 years with the rank of captain.

Betterton’s own college search was as simple as simple could be. "I was a soccer player," he says. "Dartmouth recruited me." He didn’t apply to other colleges, and didn’t waste much time or energy on looking into alternatives or applying to safety schools. And unlike parents of the class of 2012, who are now in the final stages of college application angst, Betterton’s mother and father, a nurse and a brand manager respectively, had little involvement with his educational plans. "Neither of them went to college," he says. "My father worked for Del Monte. Some of the people he worked with were college graduates, and he got some information from them."

Besides that, there was little hoopla over the college application process back in the late 1950s. "The SAT was just another test," Betterton recalls. "You took it once, and didn’t prepare for it."

It was some time before Betterton even knew that he was attending an Ivy League school. "I had never heard of the Ivy League," he says.

Also, he was busy. In addition to his studies and his ROTC obligations, Betterton played soccer on the varsity team. Excelling at the sport, he was named a regional All-American. He still coaches soccer at Princeton University, as he did when he was still the school’s admissions director. He is now a coach of the men’s varsity team, but he started the women’s soccer program at the university.

Fall is a busy time for counseling sessions, but Betterton is busy year round. "I give seminars and I’m developing college admissions software," he says. He is speaking this Wednesday, January 23, at 7 p.m. at Princeton High School.

High school students evidently need all the help that they can get, and Betterton says that he is joining an industry that is springing up to serve them. "I don’t know how many of us there are," he says, "but I know that it’s a cottage industry."

And no wonder.

"There are 2,000 four-year colleges in the United States," says Betterton, "but everyone wants to go to the same 400 or 500 schools." To make matters worse, he points out, "there are more high school graduates every year, and more of them want to go to college, but the number of places stays just about the same."

Betterton is often able to point families to schools they have not considered. Most of the students he sees are "aiming pretty high." But not even the most fabulously credentialed student is a lock to get into a specific school. "I never say `you have a 90 percent chance,’" he says. But neither does he discourage a less than top-flight student from trying for a school for which he desperately yearns. "You never know," he says.

Still, there are sound strategies to be employed. "If someone wants a top school, like Princeton, he needs to also apply to a Lehigh and a Rutgers," he advises. Most of the students Betterton counsels apply to five to ten schools, including several safety options.

Getting into college, of course, is something of an obstacle course, where not even perfect grades in AP courses and mistake-free SATs guarantee a spot. After all, says Betterton, "there are 20,000 high schools" and each one produces a valedictorian every year. Top schools, awash in applicants with solid gold grades, have to look further.

"I have to make sure that bright kids have enough going on outside the classroom," is how Betterton puts it. While a plethora of extracurricular activities used to appeal to admissions officers, schools now look favorably upon the applicant who is outstanding in one endeavor – perhaps dance or squash or sculpture. "The buzzword is `passion,’" Betterton says.

But many are less impressed by the world tour. "They’ve seen so much of that," he says. "Kids might do better to stay home and work as a lifeguard. They (the admissions officers) don’t see that too much anymore."

No matter what the strategy, Betterton is a voice of reason in the fraught frenzy that is college admissions. Says he: "I don’t think any kid should do something he doesn’t want to do just to get into a college."

New in Town

Fast-Teks, 74 Saxon Way, Skillman 08558; 609-333-0009; fax, 888-862-7393. Dave Mason, owner. Home page: (www.fastteks.com).

After nearly 40 years in the chemical industry, where he last worked as vice president of regulatory affairs for Hatco Corporation, Dave Mason took early retirement – and promptly got to work.

He had moonlighted as a web developer since 1997, shortly after he and his wife, Paige Mason, a teacher at Princeton High School, moved to New Jersey. "I decided to add more services to my business," he says.

Fast-Teks, a franchise based in Tampa, Florida, is on call when the screen goes blank, a report suddenly vanishes, or spyware gums up the hard drive. It also sets up networks for growing companies and for families who find themselves with six computers, four printers, and a fax machine – but only one Internet connection.

"It used to be," Mason recalls, "that you had to keep upgrading your computer whenever you wanted to add new software, but now there is plenty of memory. Computers that used to last for two years can last for six." The life of a PC can be extended, he says, if it receives regular maintenance. Among Fast-Teks offerings is a monthly or semi-yearly subscription maintenance plan. Cost varies according to the number of computers on site, Mason says.

A graduate of Norfolk State (Class of 1970) who holds a master’s degree in chemistry from Hampton University, Mason says that retirement – real retirement – is not much on his mind. It’s possible that he and his wife, who have four grown children, will move back to Virginia, where each grew up, in 10 years or so. But right now, Mason is concentrating on getting Fast-Teks off to a fast start.

Oscient Pharmaceuticals (OSCI), 23 Orchard Road, Skillman 08558; 908-359-9600. Mark Glickman, vice president, sales. Home page: (www.oscient.com).

Oscient Pharmaceuticals, which was named the third fastest growing technology company in Massachussetts in 2007, has opened a sales and marketing office at 23 Orchard Road, according to company spokesperson Sarah Emond.

The office will be headed by Mark Glickman, vice president of sales, and by Aaron Berg, vice president of marketing. Twelve people are working in the office as it opens, and there are plans to add staff this year.

The company is based in Waltham, Massachussetts. Its two drugs are Antara, which is approved for the adjunct treatment of high blood cholesterol, and Factive, which is approved for the treatment of acute chronic bronchitis and mild to moderate community-acquired pneumonia.

Oscient was formed in 2004 from a merger of two biotechs, Geno Therapeutics and Genesoft Therapeuticals. The company’s revenues have grown from $14 million a year to $80 million a year since the merger, and nearly doubled in the past year.

The company’s drugs are marketed to cardiologists, endocrinologists, and pulmonologists by a staff of 250 salespeople who work from their homes.

BCU Risk Advisors, 212 Carnegie Center, Suite 206, Princeton 08540; 609-524-2284. Wayne Salley, representative. (www.bcuriskadvisors.com).

BCU Risk Advisors has taken space in the Carnegie Center. The Chicago-based company provides insurance and risk management services for high net worth individuals and families, according to spokesman Bill Uniowski.

The company was formed in April. It has 10 employees in Chicago, and two in Los Angeles. Wayne Salley will head up the Princeton office, the first BCU location on the East Coast.

The Bank of Princeton, 2 Route 31 South, Suite 1, Pennington 08534; 609-730-8500; fax, 609-730-8510. Barbara Cromwell, market leader. (www.thebankofprinceton.com).

The Bank of Princeton has opened its second location. The new six-person office is on Route 31 South. It is headed by Barbara Cromwell.

The bank’s other office is located at 21 Chambers Street in Princeton. A third branch is scheduled to open in the spring at 339 Route 33 in Hamilton. Meanwhile, work has just begun on the bank’s permanent headquarters, which will be located on Bayard Lane at the site formerly occupied by Mike’s Tavern.

Deaths

David Louis Rhoads Sr., 66, on January 18. A former municipal prosecutor in East Windsor, Hopewell, and Washington townships, he was the Mercer County Parks Commissioner.

William C. Wilkinson Jr., 93, on January 16. A former Sarnoff employee, he was on the team that developed the first airborne radar system.

Stephanie Lynn Hayes, 36, on January 16. She was a nurse at St. Francis Hospital.

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