Developer proposes ‘work, live and play’ vision for Princeton Pike Office Park

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Redevelopment will provide housing for young Lawrence Township residents

The proposed redeveloper of the Princeton Pike Office Park at 3131 Princeton Pike shared his company’s vision for the mostly vacant office park with the Lawrence Township Planning Board.

Louis Reynolds, a principal in Reynolds Asset Management LLC, spent more than an hour outlining the planned redevelopment of the office park at the board’s Aug. 7 meeting.

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A formal application has not been filed.

The Princeton Pike Office Park consists of 275,000 square feet of office space in six buildings. One of the office buildings is vacant. The other buildings are partially occupied. The office park was built in 1970.

Reynolds, whose company owns the office park, proposed demolishing three of the six office buildings and replacing them with a mix-used development. The new development would contain 17,000 square feet of retail space and 204 rental apartments. Some of the apartments would be set aside for affordable housing.

Two office buildings along the Princeton Pike frontage and a third office building on the north side of the office park would be torn down to make way for the mixed-use development. Three office buildings at the rear of the office park would remain.

Reynolds said there have been discussions with local restaurateurs to locate in the retail space. There could be multiple dining options, such as a Starbucks Reserve, he said. Starbucks Reserve is an upscale version of the coffee shop.

The retail stores would be an amenity and not necessarily money-makers, Reynolds said. The retail stores – especially restaurants – would be geared toward office workers. They would be well-established businesses, he said.

The vision is to create a “live, work, play” development, he said. The employees in the three remaining office buildings could walk to the restaurants and other businesses that would occupy the retail spaces.

“It would be a huge upgrade to the entire office park,” Reynolds said.

Planning Board member Philip Duran said he liked the development concept. He said it reminded him of the mixed-use Forrestal Village development on Route 1 in Plainsboro Township, but “it was not all that successful.”

Attorney Dino Spadaccini, who represents Reynolds Asset Management, speculated that Forrestal Village and a similar mixed-use development in Voorhees (in Camden County) were not successful because they were isolated.

“Patrons had to drive to them,” he noted.

Spadaccini said the proposed development on Princeton Pike is different because it has the population density to support retail and restaurants.

“It is in a walkable location,” he said.

The residents in the nearby Woodmont townhouse development on Franklin Corner Road and employees in offices on Princeton Pike and Franklin Corner Road could walk to the stores and restaurants, he said.

Community Development Director Kevin Nerwinski, who is also the municipal manager, agreed that Forrestal Village is isolated in Plainsboro Township. He said township officials went through a “major process” on how to make the proposed office park redevelopment project an asset to the township.

The developer initially proposed a five-story apartment building, but agreed to scale it back to a three-story building, Nerwinski said. The new development would be set back from Princeton Pike and the trees along its frontage would be preserved.

“We hope the community wants and accepts and will use it,” Nerwinski said. “(The redevelopment) will make the office buildings more successful. In my opinion, this is a positive for the community.”

One of the positive aspects is the development will provide housing for young Lawrence Township residents, he said, noting there are few opportunities for people to rent an apartment in the township.

When the issue of demographics was raised, Spadaccini said it is a “myth” that multi-family developments generate “tons of children,” based on studies. This development is not aimed at families.

Spadaccini said his client does not expect a migration from other towns to the new development. The renters would be mostly empty-nesters and mostly local people. The market rate apartment rents would be affordable to households at the median income level, he said.

Reynolds said after the meeting that the company would return to the Planning Board with a formal application in the next few months. If the plan is approved, it would take about 18 months to construct the new development, he said.

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