This building spree in Princeton – is it a glass half

empty or half full? Up and down the Route 1 corridor, new

buildings are being built "on speculation," meaning that

they broke ground without a tenant in sight. And some

older buildings are completely empty. Altogether, central

New Jersey has a dozen Class A buildings that are

virtually vacant.

Optimists will take some solace from James Hughes, dean of

Rutgers’ Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, a

notorious straight shooter who doesn’t varnish the truth.

"There’s been a general point of view in the 11-county New

Jersey market that the surging rents in mid-town and

declining availability will ultimately spill over in New

Jersey," says Hughes. "There’s a lot hanging on that

idea."

So far there is very little evidence of such spillover,

Hughes cautions, buttressing the fears of the glass half

empty crowd. "Manhattan has become a hot hot place to be,

and companies may well be more willing to pay more rent

because their workers want to be there."

Of the new buildings, Princeton Corporate Campus at the

Forrestal Center and the Van Nest Office Park on

Quakerbridge Road are already finished. Buildings soon to

be completed are 1200 Lenox Drive in Lawrence, Princeton

South Corporate Center in Ewing, 7 Corporate Drive in

Cranbury, 1 University Square in West Windsor, and 902

Carnegie Center in West Windsor. Of all these, only the

last has its first tenant.

Previously occupied buildings that have been revamped

include 100 Lenox Drive (the former Lenox headquarters),

103 Morgan Lane (formerly occupied by Merrill Lynch), 400

College Road East (formerly occupied by Bloomberg), 2000

Cornwall (formerly a Pharmacopeia lab, Class B), and 29

Thanet in Princeton (formerly Institute of Defense

Analyses). Again, only the last one on that list has its

first tenant.

Then there are two entire campuses, totaling nearly

500,000 square feet, that are trying to gain a second

life: the former Lucent property (Technology Center of

Princeton) on Carter Road and the former Rhone Poulenc

campus (now Mid-Atlantic Corporate Park).

Granted, the owners of these buildings have deep pockets.

Patrinely at the Forrestal Center is finished, and

Hilton’s Carnegie Center building and Reckson’s University

Square behemoth are nearing completion, and they won’t go

broke right away. And each of the gapingly empty spaces

has its own attributes that might attract just the right

tenants.

On the southern end of the market, realtors rest smugly in

the assumption that their geography is hot.

Sab Russo and Aubrey Haines of Mercer Oak, representing

Opus East at Princeton South Corporate Center, cite

demographics showing that most of the Princeton’s workers

live south of Princeton, many in Bucks County.

"We have seen a migration trend towards Bucks County on

the 95 corridor because many decision makers live in Bucks

County and want to avoid some of the Princeton area’s

traffic conditions," says Carolyn Sica of CB Richard

Ellis.

And though Brandywine Realty’s Stephen Jennings has more

empty space on Lenox Drive than he usually does, he is

confident he can fill two more buildings, the one just

vacated by Lenox and the brand-new one.

In the heart of Princeton’s Route 1 marketplace, Mark Hill

of Hilton thinks he is one up on the others because 902

Carnegie has its first tenant.

But Tom Romano of GVA Williams Buschman believes the giant

Reckson building has the best configurations.

And Brad Fenlon, marketing the Patrinely building for CB

Richard Ellis, must surely be hoping for a company that

wants to relocate from high priced New York and needs to

be on the north end of the Princeton market.

"If a company has some share of their workers commuting

into mid-town from Princeton, then it may well be

feasible," says Hughes of the Bloustein Schoool. "But if

the workers are coming from New York or Connecticut, the

possibilities are not very great."

One company for whom the move was feasible, Comag

Marketing Group, came on the scene to take 26,000 square

feet at Forrestal Village last year. And though New Jersey

is known as Manhattan’s "back office," Comag moved its

headquarters.

One move does not constitute a trend but, with New York

rents climbing into the $80 range and above, a corporate

egress from New York could be Princeton’s saving grace.

To look behind the scenes at how and why Comag chose

Princeton, and how its employees fared, see page 16. Below

are listings for the empty (or almost empty) buildings,

followed by the rest of the listings we received from the

commercial brokers. They are sorted by type (lab, office,

retail, and warehouse or flex/industrial space) and by

location. Gross rents cover all expenses but utilities.

With net, or triple net rents, which are cheaper, the

tenant pays most expenses.

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