Corrections or additions?
These articles by Bill Sanservino and Barbara Fox were prepared
for the October 11, 2000 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights
Life in the Fast Lane: Alexander Road Construction
Alexander Road has become a hot spot for commercial
development, seeing the addition of some 750,000 square feet of office
space in a few short years. But the most significant project has not
yet even been built — a 316,000-square-foot behemoth at University
Square, near the corner of Alexander Road and Route 1, across from
the Carnegie Center. Ground was broken on the project last month.
Developer Reckson Associates Realty of Melville, New York, says that
the project is the single-largest speculative office building in
history. The five-story building will feature a two-story atrium
a modern fitness center; a first-class dining facility; and
and boardroom facilities. It will be more than twice the size of most
Carnegie Center buildings, a third larger than 100 College Road West
(the metal and glass building just south of Forrestal Village), and
25 percent larger than the biggest building in College Park at the
Forrestal Center, 600 College Road.
The new University Square project is Reckson’s first "from the
ground up" construction in New Jersey. In 1998 Reckson entered
into an agreement with Matrix Development Group to acquire University
Square — a 131,000-square-foot, three-building complex — for
some $13 million. The deal also included 18 acres of adjacent land
for $5 million, or $16 per developable square foot, planned for the
construction of the new five-story building. Reckson said it would
proceed immediately with development of the parcel to take advantage
of Princeton’s 2.7 percent Class A vacancy rate. The company projects
total development costs of some $40 million and anticipates generating
a yield in excess of 12 percent upon stabilization.
"Upon completion of this development, University Square will be
a 441,000-square-foot office park located in one of New Jersey’s most
prestigious markets. This acquisition demonstrates Reckson’s ability
to identify unique opportunities to invest in and develop well located
Class A office parks within our target markets," says Mark
managing director of Reckson’s northern New Jersey division. The
core growth strategy is focused on suburban markets within a 50-mile
radius surrounding New York City. Since the completion of its initial
public offering in 1995, Reckson has acquired or contracted to acquire
approximately $915 million of properties comprising approximately
15.1 million square feet of space.
Reckson is one of the largest publicly-traded owners and managers
of Class A suburban office and industrial properties in the New York
Tri-State area (www.reckson.com). It has 189 properties, comprised of
some 19.6 million
square feet either owned and controlled, directly or indirectly, or
under contract. Among the 22 properties in New Jersey are the
Giralda Farms complex in Madison, a 130,000-square-foot building on
River Road in Nutley, and the 120,000-square-foot Eagle Rock III
in East Hanover. As a real estate investment trust (REIT) Reckson
funds its projects with investors’ money, and University Square is
funded exclusively through Wall Street dollars.
Reckson’s Alexander Road building will be added to a
commercial corridor that has seen tremendous construction in the past
few years. But real estate is cyclical and an economic downturn like
the one experienced by the Route 1 corridor in the late 1980s and
early 1990s could result in empty buildings and plummeting rental
Given all the activity, the question begging to be asked is how much
development is too much? Have builders and developers exceeded the
demand for office space in the region? Will University Square turn
out to be the corridor’s newest species of white elephant, like
Corporate Center — a 104,000-square-foot building at Route 1 and
I-95 that stood empty for years before finally reaching full
Experts say no.
"Based on the demand over the last four years, University Square
should lease," says Walter Thomas, northeast regional manager
of the Patrinely Group, based in Bridgewater. His company’s newest
building is fully leased on College Road West and is currently
the bookend building at that location. "If you look at the window,
there is not much space coming on the market at that time."
Reckson also believes the market will support the new construction.
"Particularly in Princeton, we think there is actually a dearth
of available space, particularly high quality space," says Jeff
Schotz, senior vice president, managing director of Reckson Associates
Realty in Short Hills. "That has given us the confidence to go
forward on a speculative basis."
Schotz is marketing to tenants of 30,000 square feet (one-half floor
or more) at $32.75 per square foot plus electricity. He has no tenants
to announce yet but is "discussing the building with a number
of potential users." Bovis Construction has been hired as the
general contractor, and the estimated completion date is fall of 2001.
"The fact that it is the largest means nothing to us," says
Schotz. "The size is the maximum we were able to build on site.
We want the market to note the quality, that it will be the best
ever built in this location. We own 22 other buildings in New Jersey,
but this will be the first of what we call `ground up’ construction
that Reckson has done in New Jersey."
"If you’re a landlord in this climate, the good news is that you
are in a great real estate market. If you are a tenant looking for
quality class A and B space, there is also very good news," says
Schotz, "As a 20-year veteran of the commercial real estate
this market is one of the strongest real estate cycles I have ever
seen for both landlords and tenants."
University Square is the capstone to several years of
construction that has seen Alexander Road grow to similar proportions
as many major office parks. In the last year or so, no fewer than
10 new buildings have popped up on the Alexander Road landscape. The
largest recently-completed complex in the corridor is the Commons
at 7 and 9 Roszel Road, at the corner of Alexander. The Commons, is
comprised of a five-story 178,255-square-foot building and a
At 782 Alexander Road, a 12,800-square-foot building, completed at
the beginning of last summer, was used for an expansion by the New
Jersey Hospitals Association and is home to the company’s corporate
A 47,000-square-foot, two-story building is going up at 693 Alexander
Road built by Compass Realty and Development. Formerly an industrial
facility, the home of the Rosenblad company, the building is being
renovated and a second floor added in a "French chateau"
that contrasts markedly with the typical chrome, brick, and glass
of modern offices.
Princeton Plaza, the Nexus Properties complex consisting of a
building and a two-story building, sits at 731 Alexander Road,
the intersection with Roszel. The 60,000-square-foot building at the
front of the site is home to several professional offices, including
the law firm of McCarthy & Schatzman (see next story). The
building at the rear of the site is still under construction and is
targeted for a January, 2001, completion date
According to West Windsor community development director Samuel
the developer is working with the Hillier Group — developer of
Alexander Park — to construct a pedestrian bridge over the Bear
Brook. The bridge will connect to a path that runs along the Dinky
Railroad tracks to University Square. In the future there may be a
railroad stop along the Dinky line at University Square — an
that has been discussed since the beginning of the Route 1
At 791 Alexander Road, the final two phases of Alexander Park are
nearing completion. A five-building complex designed and developed
by the Hillier Group, the development includes a recently-completed
160,000-square-foot building housing Mathematica and Sibson & Company,
among others. The 72,000-square-foot 700 building, currently under
construction, will complete Alexander Park.
Princeton Junction Metro Center sits at the western corner of
Road and Vaughn Drive at the Princeton Junction train station. The
phase one building at the rear of the site was constructed several
years ago. Phase three, a 35,000-square-foot building that fronts
on Alexander Road, was recently completed and will be the new home
of Bovis Construction. Phase two calls for a 97,000-square-foot
between the two existing buildings.
Across from the Metro Center at the corner of Vaughn and Alexander
is the steel frame of Station Plaza, a 28,000-square-foot two-story
building owned by Nexus Properties. Completion is estimated for July,
2001. A Nexus representative says the developer is currently in
with "a Fortune 500 company" as a tenant.
As building after building is stocked with new tenants, more and more
cars will appear on the area’s already burdened roadways. On Route
1, the state Department of Transportation has completed the Alexander
Road overpass and the new Meadow Road overpass, now under
should contribute to better traffic flow on Alexander Road.
Alexander Road itself was improved years ago based on West Windsor
Township’s plan for the area. According to Surtees, the township
the commercial zoning for Alexander Road in 1979 and many of the
there now were approved in the 1980s and early 1990s. Surtees says
the township professionals believe Alexander Road’s current
will be sufficient to handle all traffic from the office parks at
Unfortunately, the railroad bridge at Alexander and North Post roads
continues to operate at a failing level of efficiency. Motorists who
must travel through West Windsor’s roads to get to and from work on
Alexander Road are frequently in for a long wait at the bridge, which
backs up on both sides of the railroad tracks.
Financing to improve the bridge has finally become available, but
commuters shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for the bridge to be
reconstructed. Last year DOT finally claimed ownership of the bridge.
Currently the township is working with state Senator Shirley Turner
to "expedite" funding, says Surtees. But in the best-case
scenario, reconstruction of the bridge is many years away. Surtees
has said that it could take as long as five years before the project
is actually underway.
In the short term, West Windsor has allocated funds for improvements
at the intersection calling for the construction of turning lanes
in both directions and a traffic light where Alexander and North Post
roads meet. Construction of those improvements is not expected to
begin until sometime in 2001.
— Bill Sanservino
When McCarthy & Schatzman moved its law offices from
an 18th century Georgian house on Chambers Street, architect William
Wolfe adapted an Alexander Street building to give it both Georgian
and postmodern elements — an updated "fan" motif on the
portals and giant round balls on the outside steps.
Princeton University has bought this signature building, one of the
few that it did not already own on Alexander Street, and the law firm
has moved down the street to Alexander Road (the West Windsor name
for any part of Alexander past the Delaware & Raritan Canal). It is
located in a Nexus Properties building that retains the Princeton
Its previous home had an eat-in kitchen for all the tenants, but in
the brand-new building at Princeton Plaza, 731 Alexander Road, the
two dozen employees are enjoying a new Merlin magic phone system with
all the bells and whistles and up-to-the-minute wiring, says Barbara
Nelson (Catholic University, Class of 1974). She and Michael Spero
(Rutgers, Class of 1971, and Hofstra) were the partners in charge
of the move. David R. Nelson, a former Geddes architect who happens
to be her brother, designed the 6,000-foot space. O’Gara’s Moving
completed the move on a weekend. "Now we have space for
says Nelson. All the other tenants at 228 Alexander have moved or
are moving soon.
With the purchase of the McCarthy Schatzman building, Princeton
has taken one more big step to its apparent (though not formally
desire) to own the whole of Alexander. Springdale Golf Course runs
down one side of Alexander Street, and the university owns all the
borough properties on the "working" side and most of the
ones. The house at 106 Alexander — which houses dining services
staff and has a staff apartment — and six semi-detached housing
units are the university-owned borough buildings.
Township property begins at 120 Alexander. The university’s holdings
include the Grover Lumber building, the McCarthy Schatzman building,
the old Princeton Ballet building (now used for the environmental
health & safety offices), the grassy lot on the corner of Faculty
Road, the Helm Building, the former car wash building now rented to
Holt-Morgan-Russell Architects, and a small piece of Rusty Scupper’s
The only properties that are not owned by the university: the
brick Wilson warehouse, Princeton Fuel Oil, the Marsha Child gallery,
Skillman Furniture, Soonja’s restaurant, three houses flanking the
entrance to the railroad station parking lot, Larini’s gas station,
two houses east of Faculty Road (including one in very bad shape)
and the courtyard complex housing the Princeton Pool & Patio Shop
and P.J. Kids.
But the university has a policy of not taking a building off the tax
rolls if it is partly used as residential or if it has outside
"As long as we have an outside user, the university has chosen
not to partially exempt a building," says Carolyn Luttman Clancy,
director of real estate for the university. Because apartments and
houses at 132, 134, 148 and 150 Alexander are used for living space,
the university still pays taxes on them. And the Helm building went
off the tax rolls only when the last paying tenant (Charles Schwab)
When the university does begin the process of taking a property off
the tax rolls, it moves gradually, by paying 90 percent of the tax
in the first year, 80 percent in the second year, and so on. When
the Helm building went off the tax rolls, four years after being
by the university, it was assessed for $4,725,500. In 1999 it paid
$98,872.75 in taxes.
Because the use for the McCarthy Schatzman building at 228 Alexander
has not been determined, it is still on the tax rolls. Clancy expects
to put university users on the second floor of the building early
next year. "There is a lot of work to do; the HVAC is totally
gone and the roof leaks," she says.
201, Box 2329, Princeton 08543-2329. G. Christopher Baker, managing
partner. 609-924-1199; fax, 609-683-5251.
Here’s what’s been happening with other 228 Alexander Street tenants:
end of October and is also opening a second location at 1 Nami Lane
in Quakerbridge Business Park.
move to the Princeton Fuel Oil building.
Road at Forrestal Village, the former Bovis Construction Corp. space.
Road, Box 7287, Princeton 08543-7287. Gerard Abbattista CPA,
officer-in-charge. Home page: www.amper.com
The Edison-based accounting firm has moved from Princeton Professional
Park at 601 Ewing Street to the 3,600 square feet in the new Nexus
building, Princeton Plaza, at 731 Alexander Road. The Buschman Group
represented the landlord. Designed by Kevin Blackney & Associates,
the building has an upscale oval lobby and walk-out bay windows. The
firm has 180 employees distributed among offices in Edison,
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.