TOWNSHIP OF WEST WINDSOR
Department of Administration
TO:Mayor & Council
FROM:Robert Hary, Business Administrator
SUBJECT: County Route (CR) 571 Projects (Princeton-Hightstown Road)
DATE:October 19, 2009
As a follow-up to the October 16, 2009 memorandum from Community Development Director Pat Ward, the following is an update of the status report on County Route 571 Construction Projects.
Former ACME Shopping Center
Please note that contact has been made with the McDowell family that currently owns the former ACME shopping center on Princeton Hightstown Road. This has proven to be a challenging task since the property owners are grandchildren of the long time owner and they live in different locations throughout the country, including Missouri and California.
In a follow-up conversation with their designated property management company, Silbert Realty, of Millington, NJ, it was conveyed to us that they are actively pursuing new tenants including a food market anchor for the complex as well as a refurbishment of the building, sign, and site upgrades. Representatives from Silbert Realty will be contacting me to set up a follow-up meeting within the next few weeks to further discuss their progress. Simultaneously, Redevelopment Attorney Ed McManimon has made contact with the attorney representing the property owners who we anticipate will be a part of future meetings.
This property was being held in trust by a grandfather for his grandchildren. The trust expired in May of 2009. The six grandchildren reside mostly in California and other states, and decided to sell the property. While the property was under contract, the Township held a few meetings with the potential developer to discuss possible improvements to the property. However, we learned that the purchase arrangement fell through recently. When the leases were up, the Acme Market and another business left leaving the one large and two small vacancies. The property is now under a new management company.
Proposed Rite Aid Project
A meeting has been scheduled with the Dreher Group this coming Wednesday to further review their progress at the proposed Rite Aid site on the corner of Cranbury Road and Princeton Hightstown Road. At that time, we will be reminding Mr. Dreher that we have requested an architectural rendering of the project be placed at the corner of the property advising residents of the details of the upcoming project.
Project History: At the corner of Cranbury Road and CR 571, this property (Schaeffer’s Garage) and the adjacent property (Mackley) were purchased for development of a new Rite-Aid and retail building. The Zoning Board gave approval for the two buildings with a number of stipulations. It appears that the economic downturn may have caused this project to stall as well. The Township requested that the buildings be boarded up until they were demolished because they were an attractive nuisance and were being vandalized. We have been in constant contact with the developer to keep the property maintained until development takes place. We have met with the developer to see how the Township could assist in moving the project forward. One request was that they be allowed to build the Rite-Aid building first and the retail building later. This was accepted.
The project is currently in Compliance Review. There are about twelve specific details or calculations noted by engineering and planning including landscape issues to be addressed. The engineer’s cost estimate for the performance bond is still incomplete. The developer is awaiting a phasing plan from their engineers which should be available in the next few weeks at which time the resolution compliance review will be completed. The project has approval from Mercer County and will be submitted to the Mercer County Soil Conservation District once the plans are complete. Environmental approvals are already in place. The building façade will be close to the street similar to the new CDNJ/Chase Bank building at the intersection with Sherbrooke Drive.
The improvements that this project will provide are numerous and include:
New curbing set with turning lanes per the Route 571/Cranbury Road design.
New decorative sidewalks to compliment the walks along PNC bank frontage.
New decorative pavement terraces at the corner and along the storefronts to create a series of seating/café areas within the streetscape.
New decorative (brick) seat/retaining walls between the sidewalk and terraces.
New decorative lights to compliment the lights along the PNC bank frontage.
New decorative masonry screen wall along the Cranbury Road frontage to screen views of the rear parking lot from the road.
Extensive landscape along the streetscape to create a pedestrian scale to the spaces and frame views of the new building facades.
Redesign of CR 571
A concept design for CR 571 from Clarksville Road to the Cranbury Road/Wallace Road intersections has been agreed upon between West Windsor Township and Mercer County. This design calls for one lane in each direction and a center turning lane. The design also provide for sidewalks and bike lanes on both sides of the roadway with a well defined streetscape.
This project is progressing through the Mercer County Engineering office. It is currently in what is called a “Scoping” phase. A Categorical Exclusion Document has been completed and sent to the NJ Department of Transportation (NJDOT). This document presents environmental and historical data as well as any other impacts that the project may have. After review and approval, it will be sent to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). This is required if federal dollars are to be used for the project. I also learned from the County Planners office that they will be scheduling a public open house once a few more issues have been resolved (e.g., Greenacres involvement concerning the Rogers Arboretum at the corner of Clarksville and CR 571). Community Development is communicating regularly with the County to monitor the progress of this project.
Intersection of Cranbury Road/Wallace Road
A meeting was held with State, County and Township representatives concerning improvements to the intersection of Cranbury Road/ Wallace Road, and CR 571 at State Highway Route 64 (bridge over Amtrak rails). The improvements which were identified and accepted by the State are:
Crosswalks with curb ramps at all corners
Pedestrian activation countdown lights at all corners
A left turn lane coming off of the bridge eastbound onto Cranbury Road
A pedestrian crossing over the bridge on the south side to Washington Road
A crosswalk at the location of Washington Road
These improvements are scheduled for the spring of 2010.
Ellsworth’s Lower Level
The lower level of the Ellsworth’s shopping center had been dormant for about 18 years. Mayor Hsueh brought the owner back to West Windsor (from north Jersey) to understand why there had been no activity for so long. We learned that the owner was required by the Township to resolve intersection improvements of Cranbury Road, Wallace Road, and Route 571 with the State and County before a Certificate of Occupancy could be issued. This condition was viewed by the owner to be a very difficult task to accomplish. The Community Development department worked with the State and County to resolve this issue, and finally worked with the owner and Planning Board to waive the requirements so that the owner could move forward. This department also worked with the owner and his professionals to bring the plans up to current codes and issued new permits.
A new permit for the smaller of two buildings was issued in March, 2008. Work resumed but when the economic downturn occurred, the owner once again walked away from the project. Code Enforcement left a number of messages for the developer in January and February of 2009. We have most recently asked our Township Attorney to contact the developer about his intent in reference to this property.
The Valero Gas Station at Alexander Road
The Valero gas station on the corner of Alexander Road and CR 571 has approval to construct a 24-hour convenience store on the property based on a court decision overturning the Zoning Board. The Township is waiting for the owner to initiate this project. The lot behind the gas station is owned by the Township and intended to be a small park. The Township is waiting until the development of the station convenience store before beginning this park project.
Administration has been aggressively working on development of Route 571 as an integral part of our overall redevelopment plan.
It should be noted that the Township and Planning Board have been encouraging a renaissance of the downtown Princeton Junction area. This can be seen in recent completed projects such as the PNC Bank on CR 571 and Wallace Road and the new CDNJ building which houses Chase Bank on CR 571 and Sherbrooke Drive.
Community Development will continue to encourage and support development projects in the Princeton Junction area. The department has been directed to make the improvements of this segment of CR 571 as a top priority.