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Lawrence Township Council approves area in need of redevelopment designation for Princeton Office Park

The Lawrence Township Council has formally designated the Princeton Pike Office Park a non-condemnation area in need of redevelopment clearing the way for the potential redevelopment of the office park at 3131 Princeton Pike.

The Township Council voted 3-2 to accept the Lawrence Township Planning Board’s recommendation to designate the 27-acre property as a non-condemnation area in need of redevelopment at its May 2 meeting.

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Township Councilmen Christopher Bobbitt, Jim Kownacki and Michael Powers voted to approve the resolution accepting the Planning Board’s recommendation. Mayor John Ryan and Councilwoman Catie MacDuff voted “no.”

Ryan said he voted against the resolution because there was not “significant justification” to declare the office park as an area in need of redevelopment.

Ryan compared the mostly vacant office park to the abandoned industrial site at 40 Enterprise Ave., which was declared a non-condemnation area in need of redevelopment by the Township Council in 2021.

The warehouse buildings at the former industrial site on Enterprise Avenue were in poor condition. Mounds of tires and trash filled one building, and abandoned trailers were lined up outside another building. The roof had collapsed on one of the buildings.

“We don’t have that at this site. I am against (the designation),” Ryan said.

MacDuff said she had spoken to residents, and no one was happy about having the office park declared as an area in need of redevelopment. She urged residents to get involved and to bring their concerns to the Township Council and the Planning Board.

Bobbitt, Kownacki and Powers said the discussion about the fate of the Princeton Pike Office Park is not over. A developer would have to present plans for its redevelopment to the Planning Board, they said.

“This vote is not to start building (on the property). It is the first step in a process. This is not being done in a back room. There will be other hearings in front of the Planning Board, and folks will have an opportunity to comment,” Powers said.

The next step is to prepare a redevelopment plan, most likely in a process involving a developer and township officials. The redevelopment plan would have to be adopted by ordinance and incorporated into the township’s Land Use Ordinance.

A developer would present a site plan for the redevelopment of the property to the Planning Board for its approval. This is the process that was used in the redevelopment of the abandoned industrial site at 40 Enterprise Ave.

The potential redevelopment of the Princeton Pike Office Park grew out of a developer’s proposal to redevelop it into a mixed-use development. A presentation was made to the Township Council in November 2022.

The developer’s proposal called for 17,000 square feet of retail space at the front of the property, plus 193 rental apartments that would include some units set aside for affordable housing.

The Princeton Pike Office Park consists of 275,000 square feet of office space in six office buildings. The office park was built in 1970.

One of the six office buildings is vacant, according to a preliminary investigation report adopted by the Planning Board at its March 20 meeting. The other buildings are partially occupied. The vacancy rate increased from 18% in 2017 to 42% in 2021.

The Princeton Pike Office Park is in the O (Office) zoning district. Permitted uses include offices, medical clinics, professional offices, banks, public parks and recreation. Conservation, governmental uses and nursing homes are allowed.

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