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This article was prepared for the January 15, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Life in the Fast Lane
Princeton Forrestal Village is the chameleon of the
Route 1 world of retail. In the late 1980s it was an upscale shopping
venue. When that failed, it was transformed into a factory outlet
center in the 1990s. Now a high vacancy rate in the 205,000-square-foot
retail portion of the center has prompted the center’s management
firm, the Gale Company, to make another change. This time it’s to
a use that has been the most frequent formula for success along Route
1 — commercial offices.
On Tuesday, January 21, Plainsboro’s planning board will hear
an application by Gale for a change in use at the center to allow
Gale to bring in up to 115,000 square feet of professional offices.
The new use would be mixed with 90,000 square feet of retail store
fronts that would continue to be located at the front of the center.
Retail would also continue to operate in the food hall — which
has consistently been the most successful element of the center.
"They are looking for a little more flexibility than retail for
perspective tenants," says Michael LaPlace, Plainsboro community
development director. The uses allowed would include doctors, lawyers,
architects, insurance agents, financial services, and health clubs.
"They want uses that would encourage traffic to the retail component."
Gale’s application was originally heard in December, but the board
asked for more detailed information and continued the hearing. "We’re
concerned about any project in Plainsboro that’s not doing well,"
says Mayor Peter Cantu, "and it’s no secret that the retail is
not doing well there.
"The township is trying to ensure that we get commitments from
them to retain a retail component. We’re engaged in conversations
about that, and particularly that we’ll continue to have a planning
role as to what those uses might be. Our objective is to see this
thing is successful."
The center, almost from inception, has had various measures of success,
but never became the major shopping destination envisioned by developer
Scott Toombs when he opened the Village in 1987. By 1991, about half
of the 95 upscale stores that originally opened with the center had
shut down, and the Bank of New York, which held the note on the property,
seized control and brought in the Gale Company to manage the site.
Gale, then operating as Gale & Wentworth, changed the Village to an
outlet center, and during the 1990s saw occupancy rates as high as
94 percent. Gale bought the Village from the bank in 1995 at a fire
sale price of $29 million, and sold it three years later for $46 million
to Credit Suisse First Boston.
But in recent years the poor economy coupled with competition from
other Route 1 retail has hit the center hard, and occupancy has dropped
to about 50 percent.
"It’s hard to understand why the center hasn’t worked, and quite
frankly, I’m puzzled," says Cantu. "On the plus side, it’s
a well-maintained first class facility. To date it just hasn’t had
"I think they thought that the Princeton name was going to work
magic for them, and it never did, so they had to go in other directions,"
he adds. "I would hope they will be able to settle on a concept
that works for them and the community as well. I’m supportive of the
cause of allowing them uses that are consistent with the market, but
sometimes you have to look at the marketeer as well."
— Bill Sanservino
As the Patrinely Group prepares for its next building
project, 800,000 square feet adjacent to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
on Route 1 North, it was able to turn over its two buildings on the
other side of Route 1 for a handsome sum — a reported $54 million,
or $240 per square foot.
The buildings, totaling 225,000 square feet, are handsome, but no
doubt the tenant list enhanced the sale price. Novo Nordisk is the
anchor tenant at 100 College Road West, along with ZS Associates (another
pharmaceutical firm) and the law firm Duane Morris. Broadbeam was
a tenant here also but has moved to Route 130. Meanwhile at 150 College
Road West, Physiome Sciences has 25,000 feet, and American Re, a company
that prides itself on its reputation and is therefore attractive to
landlords, is paying for 40,000 square feet.
Phillip Benjamin, senior vice president of the Patrinely Group, declined
to confirm the price but says that the buyers retained Patrinely as
building managers. The buyer, New Valley Corp., is a New York-based
partnership, part of the Miami-based Vector Group. New Valley, a
public company, trades on Nasdaq as NVAL
Meanwhile Insignia ESG of Central Jersey, located in East Brunswick,
may have landed a tenant for space made available on Roszel Road when
Merrill Lynch moved out to Hopewell. If this tenant took all of the
111,000 feet available at 9 Roszel (the five story building), the
current sublease tenant, ClinPhone, would need to move next door.
The three story building that fronts on Roszel Road, 7 Roszel, still
has the Princeton retail office of Merrill Lynch on the fourth floor
and Pharmacia on the fifth floor , but it also has 109,000 sublease
Ray Sohmer of Insignia ESG, who is marketing the $50 million property
for SJP Properties, declined comment, citing a confidentiality agreement,
but the potential tenant is reportedly Tyco International, the $36
billion conglomerate. It seems that Edward D. Breen Jr., the new man
at Tyco’s top who is supposed to be rescuing this company from its
big losses and allegations of fraud, lives in New Hope. The move might
also generate cash. Moving 300 workers from New York would certainly
qualify for a hefty state grant.
On its way to landing a four-year $33 million contract
for New Jersey’s grade school assessment tests, Educational Testing
Service ran into a snag. In a November interview CEO Kurt Landgraf
had referred to Governor James R. McGreevey’s promise to favor
New Jersey companies and had said he would be "very disappointed"
if ETS did not win the contract (U.S. 1, November 13, 2002).
That gubernatorial promise — whether real or perceived — apparently
did not sit well with one of ETS’s competitors, Harcourt Educational
Measurement of Texas. The state was ready to award the contract for
a new third-grade reading and math test and a revised fourth grade
exam to ETS when Harcourt challenged the decision on the basis that
the ETS bid amounted to nearly twice the Harcourt bid.
What happened next: the state treasurer’s office required a second
round of bidding, because the ETS bid supposedly did not conform with
the contract requirements. On December 31 Harcourt claimed that the
state had "tailor-made" the process to benefit ETS. Three
days later, when the bids were opened, ETS came in with its bid of
$35.6 million, compared to $20.9 million from Harcourt. CTB-McGraw
Hill bid $20 million and NCS-Pearson bid $18.5 million.
As reported by the Star Ledger on January 6, Harcourt claims the state
"is knowingly attempting to exclude all but ETS from successfully
bidding" for the contract. Chief among its objections is that
the latest bidding requirements are slanted against "off the shelf"
tests and in favor of the custom-built tests that ETS makes. The state
says it merely clarified the language so that everyone would have
a level playing field.
ETS cannot discuss the bid but gives this warning: "We do fear
that repeated challenges will jeopardize the state’s efforts to implement
the reforms envisioned with this RFP."
"We believe that after this bidding process is complete, ETS will
be chosen as the state’s assessment contractor. In originally awarding
ETS by far the highest score on the technical merits of the proposals
reviewed, the seven-member Evaluation Committee recognized the superior
quality of ETS’s assessment development plan."
ETS has the K-12 assessment contract for California — the largest
in the world — and also for Georgia and Maryland."
304, Princeton 08540. G. Ramamurty, chief design architect. 609-419-9300;
fax, 609-419-9777. Home page: www.velio.com
The telecommunications firm moved from 10,000 square feet at 210 Carnegie
Center to 2,500 feet at 214 Carnegie. From 12 employees, it has gone
to eight. "We are waiting for the economy to change," says
Using traditional technology Velio Communications Inc. designs components
for optical telecommunications switches and routers for a San Jose-based
semiconductor firm. It uses standard CMOS semiconductor chips made
of silicon to send signals at optical speeds.
Ramamurty said in a previous interview (U.S. 1, May 9, 2001) that
the company had 12 employees and expected to hire more than 40 more,
but now the firm has gone to eight employees. The company is a "fabless"
shop, meaning that it designs but does not manufacture, or fabricate.
Ramamurty previously worked at NEC.
Sergio Heker, president. 609-375-2385; fax, 609-375-2667. Www.nextgeninter.net
At the end of December Sergio Heker moved his Internet services company
from Enterprise Business Center in Cranbury to 100 Overlook, and the
firm has a new phone and fax. Heker established the firm as Global
Enterprise Services in 1991 and sold his United States networking
operation to the Colorado-based company now known as Verio. Now named
NextGen Internet, Heker’s company is building networks in Latin America.
In this country it offers hosting, web and database applications,
training on Bay Networks, and support for private networks.
Suite 102, Cranbury 08512. Ronald M. Burch MD PhD, president and CEO.
609-409-2300; fax, 609-409-2323. Www.algorx.com
This manufacturer of pain treatment products has begun clinical trials
on ALGRX 4975, for treating chronic pain, including tendonitis, post-surgical
conditions, and osteoarthritis of the knee. The market opportunity
is several hundred million dollars, according to CEO Ronald Burch.
Center, Suite 102, Princeton 08540. Harry Brener, chairman. 609-921-2001;
fax, 609-497-0998. Www.tmflp.com
TMF and its sister company, Brener Capital Group, have moved from
Research Park to Princeton Overlook. TMF is a private limited partnership
that builds equity value in portfolios of early-stage technology companies
by creating and managing commercialization partnerships.
Princeton 08540. Jan Leschly, CEO. 609-683-8300; fax, 609-683-5787.
This life-sciences investment fund moved from Princeton Overlook to
Building 400, Windsor Corporate Park, Suite 200, Box 541, Cranbury
08512. Alan Glass, CEO. 609-371-7700; fax, 609-371-7879. Home page:
Jack Sweet is the new editor of Pacific Shipper magazine, a 77-year-old
import/export trade magazine. He had been managing editor for California-based
World Trade Magazine, owned by Business News Publishing Company, and
he started a monthly E-mail newsletter that grew to a circulation
of 16,000. For another company he launched four new magazines, and
he also worked for Advanstar Communications. Commonwealth Business
Media offers business-to-business database information, directories,
and trade publications.
08540. Craig Muhlhauser, president and COO. 609-627-7200. Home
Biabio N. Vignolo Jr., a turnaround specialist, is the new executive
vice president and CFO at the company that has Chapter 11 bankruptcy
status. Vignolo had improved the finances of Sun Chemical Corp. and
American Bakeries Corp. He replaces former CFO Lisa Donahue.
Carnegie Center is the corporate headquarters of the manufacturer
and recycler of batteries for autos, boats, RVs, and lawn and garden
tools. Exide has operations in 89 countries and had net sales of $2.4
billion last year.
Road East, Princeton 08540-6692. 609-452-7700; fax, 609-987-8523.
C. James Trombino is the new acting executive director of the Metal
Powder Industries Federation, following the retirement of Donald G.
White. Trombino has a similar position at APMI International, the
professional society for powder metallurgists.
White joined the 20-employee organization in 1987. MPIF promotes world-wide
powder and metallurgy industries through statistics, standards, marketing,
technology, research, publications, meetings, and education. It includes
the Metal Injection Molding Association.
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