Sensors Unlimited got its start at the Princeton Service Center, where it remained until moving to its shiny new quarters on Carter Road this year. The collection of 10 one-story office buildings at 3490 Route 1, right next to the highway, is one of the oldest business parks in the Route 1 corridor, having been built in the 1970s.
Greg Olsen credits the plaza’s former owner, Ted Potts, with helping him get his entrepreneurial efforts off the ground. When Olsen founded Epitaxx in 1984, he needed a facility with a clean room to make the electronics the company sold. Not only did Potts customize a space at Princeton Service Center, but he showed Olsen and his partner how to do it cheaply. “We were two research scientists who didn’t have a clue,” Olsen recalls. “He taught us how to take a lot of shortcuts to save money.”
When Olsen sold Epitaxx in 1990, the company vacated its former space. Olsen and Cohen decided to just re-use the same location for Sensors Unlimited.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Sensors focused on making high-tech fiber optic components to take advantage of the boom in the fiber-optic industry. Finistar bought the company for $600 million in stock, and Olsen remained an employee.
It was heady days for the fiber optic industry. “Everyone thought business was going to double and redouble forever,” Olsen recalls. “People were telling us, ‘You’re gonna have to get a larger facility to take care of our demands.’ Everybody was drinking the same Kool-Aid.’”
With expansion on the horizon in 2001, Olsen and Cohen began looking around for potential new sites for the company and settled on 330 Carter Road. However, the subsequent collapse of the high-tech bubble of the early 2000s killed any thought of expanding. Olsen bought back the company and focused on making infrared cameras again.
Sensors is not the only success story to come out of the Princeton Service Center. It was also the home of Prince Sports, makers of tennis equipment, which is now based in Bordentown and moving to Atlanta.
When Ted Potts died in 1992, his sister, Dorothea Potts, took over. With the departure of Sensors Unlimited, the office park is now 30 percent occupied. The owners have put the 105,000 square-foot park up for sale at an asking price of $9.5 million.
Bill Barish of CPN Real Estate says the site’s proximity to the new University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro makes it ideal for medical offices, and that it is also zoned for an office/condo development. “It’s probably the last remaining Princeton office park suitable for redevelopment or repositioning,” he said.