‘We are eager to move forward’

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Shovels may have recently hit dirt to mark the official groundbreaking of the Montgomery Promenade, but the vision for the development has encompassed more than two decades.

“We looked back and its 20 years … the first plans, I think came through in 2003,” Montgomery Township Mayor Devra Keenan said. “Which means [the plans] were talked about a little bit earlier than that, so this has been a long time to come I would say.”

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The project has faced challenges over the years. However, on Sept. 26, Montgomery Township officials and SJC Ventures executives were finally at the point where they could gather together on Route 206 to celebrate the mixed-use and retail project’s construction moving ahead.

“You look back at all the hard work and realize it was worth it to get to this point, because the project itself is the best version of itself,” said Jeff Garrison, principal at SJC Ventures, the Atlanta-based commercial real estate and development firm behind the project.

“We are excited to move forward and eager to move forward.”

Jeff Garrison (right), principal at SJC Ventures, speaks to attendees at groundbreaking ceremony for the Montgomery Promenade on Sept. 26. Photo by Andrew Harrison

The Montgomery Promenade is being built in two phases on a vacant 54-acre parcel in the township at 1200 State Road.

Keenan said the township is “very excited” for the project to take its next steps.

“I joked that this pile of dirt is the furthest we have actually come on this project,” she quipped.

The project’s first phase consists of 11 mixed-use and retail buildings and 29 residential single-family homes. In the second phase, there are five mixed-use and retail buildings planned along with five residential single-family homes.

Vacant land where construction takes place for Montgomery Promenade at 1200 State Road. Photo by Andrew Harrison

The 292,700-square-foot shopping center north of the Princeton airport will be anchored by Whole Foods.

As a development partner with Whole Foods, SJC Ventures was asked by the natural and organic supermarket chain to work on this development project.

SJC Ventures took over the Montgomery Promenade project from developer Madison Marquette, which is the retail developer for Asbury Park Boardwalk and also owner of Princeton Marketfair.

“This was a market that they established and wanted to be in, and we said look we like to make projects like this come to life,” Garrison said. “[Montgomery Promenade] is a big project and takes a lot of time.”

As they move forward, SJC Ventures plans to start opening tenants in 20 months. Twenty to 26 months is the traditional target, Garrison said.

“It is a staggered opening because it is not one large tenant,” he explained. “[Montgomery Promenade] is a large tenant and lots of ancillary tenants. Some tenants will be excited to get open earlier and some will wait [for the market or traffic patterns] to be a little more established.”

Outside of Whole Foods, tenants that have been announced include the McLoone’s Group, which will have an Iron Whale and Robinson Ale House totaling about 15,000 square feet; a 11,000 square-foot Ulta Beauty adjacent to Whole Foods; and a Kirk Ruoff’s Turning Point Restaurant.

In addition, a women’s clothing store Dor L’ Dor NYC, a More Than Q, European Wax Center, Spavia and Norman’s Hallmark.

Justin Latone, SJC Ventures senior vice president of leasing, noted that the overall project is about 50% leased.

For the first phase, which is being constructed now and about 162,200 square feet, there is 75,000 square-feet of leasing space available.

“… We will probably have 40,000 square feet to lease starting next year not including what we already have,” Latone said.

SJC Ventures has intent on signing five leases between the time of groundbreaking and the end of the year. The firm will have three announcements planned in the next 60 days, which will include new retailers, Latone noted.

They intend on having Phase I fully leased at the time the project opens.

“I will say from a use standpoint the types of uses we are really seeking right now are experiential restaurants, those that will really activate patios and show excitement as you come through the project,” Latone said.

“Seeing people hanging out on the patios, having lights out there, some nice green space, and some TVs, that is what we are really seeking right now [as well as] boutique fitness. We actually have a need for a couple of boutique fitness operators like Orange Theory and Club Pilates.”

Traffic

As a way to ease traffic around the site impacting Route 206 and Route 518, SJC Ventures is building a roadway through the Montgomery Promenade connecting both routes, which will be called Nevius Boulevard.

The new road is a two-lane roadway with a traffic circle loop near the Route 206 access on Nevius Boulevard.

Garrison stressed that for SJC Ventures addressing traffic generated and impacted by the Montgomery Promenade was an important piece they had to get right.

“There were a lot of traffic studies, a lot of engineering, and a lot of design,” he said of the process. “We forecasted growth, we forecasted almost every scenario.

“When people see the final result, they are going to see what five years of engineering went into and see that this is the best version of traffic movement and moving people in and through Montgomery Township.

“We are excited to unveil that in the next coming months.”

Montgomery Township Committee members pose together at the shopping center site in Montgomery Township. Photo by Andrew Harrison

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