After years of legal wrangling, West Windsor Township is on the cusp of a major residential development plan that could be its first step toward a much-discussed transit village at the Princeton Junction train station.
On Monday, November 22, the Township Council approved a settlement in the litigation brought by InterCap Holdings, a real estate developer headed by CEO Steve Goldin and based at 100 Overlook Drive, regarding the township’s redevelopment plan. InterCap had sued West Windsor alleging that the area did not meet the criteria to warrant a redevelopment designation.
As part of the settlement, the township essentially would give its blessing to InterCap to build 800 residential units plus retail space on its 25-acre site now occupied mostly by office space at 14 Washington Road. The settlement must be approved by Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg.
The settlement calls for the housing units to be phased in on InterCap’s property off Washington Road, along with retail development and infrastructure and amenity contributions. The most notable amenity would be a 750-by-160-foot promenade area that would provide a public area for residents. Other contributions include the reimbursement of redevelopment fees, and the construction of traffic improvements both within and outside the redevelopment site, justifying the additional units, according to a township memo.
The integrated development would not include any office space, but InterCap would be required to construct 70,000 square feet of retail space as the residential units evolve in three phases. The first 25,000 square feet of retail would be constructed no later than when a certificate of occupancy is issued for the first 251 housing units. By the time a CO is issued for the 501st residential unit, a total of 50,000 square feet of retail must be completed. The remaining 20,000 square feet (70,000 total) is to be constructed no later than the issuance of the CO for the 800th residential unit.
There is also a provision that requires InterCap to build an additional 30,000 square feet of retail space if, during the previous 18 months, 95 percent of the first 70,000 square feet of retails space is occupied at an average base rent of $30 per square foot.
The settlement also requires InterCap to pay the township $683,000 in redevelopment fees, as well as $2.678 million for off-tract roadway improvements. InterCap will also be responsible for all on-tract infrastructure, including the construction of internal streets and portions of Vaughn Drive.
The concept plan was designed by Jim Constantine of the Looney Ricks Kiss firm, 182 Nassau Street, but it is similar to a plan envisioned in 2006 by officials.
Ultimately, the township adopted its own redevelopment plan in March, 2009, for the entire 350-acre area, which called for a base of 483 housing units consisting of 311 market-priced units and 172 affordable housing units and 208,000 square feet of retail space.
In May, 2009, InterCap filed a lawsuit challenging the legitimacy of West Windsor’s redevelopment designation. The lawsuit followed a series of public presentations put on by Goldin for the community at his own expense to try to garner support for his plans for the area. Five other parties, including Amtrak, joined InterCap’s lawsuit in August.
West Windsor’s attempt at thwarting a trial was shot down on June 22, when the Appellate Division of the State Superior Court denied the township’s appeal. That led to recent settlement talks.
Back in 2006, when architect Bob Hillier presented his plans during the charrettes, hundreds of residents participated in the process. But a portion of them vociferously objected to the number of housing units, which was proposed to be 1,000.
Hillier sold his Alexander Road firm, Hillier Architecture, to RMJM in 2007 and now operates the J. Robert Hillier architecture firm at 190 Witherspoon Street. He says that he has not seen Goldin’s plan, so he cannot say how similar it is to his, nor whether it is the building block of a transit village, which Goldin has been pushing for years (his ideas were the subject of U.S. 1’s cover story on May 28, 2008).
Hillier did say, however, that though the end result has been good so far, the process has been typically flawed. Ideally, Hillier says, a town should devise its development plans and then hire a developer to see it through. But what happened here is what happens too often — the developer has to take the town to court and sue for the right to implement a plan. “It’s development by adversary,” he says. “The courts are becoming the master planners.”
InterCap Holdings, 100 Overlook Center, Princeton 08540; 609-375-2802; fax, 609-375-2640. Steve Goldin, CEO. Home page: www.InterCapHoldings.com.
More Station Parking?
Despite that New Jersey Transit has issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) from private entities to operate parking facilities at 81 stations across the state, including Princeton Junction in West Windsor, the township will continue with its own plans to build 500 new parking spaces at the former township compost site on Alexander Road.
Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh has stated that waiting for NJ Transit to work out its own plans — which could call for a 2,200-space parking garage at Princeton Junction — will not work for West Windsor. More parking is needed now, Hsueh says, not when the state-run transit agency goes through all its paces.
The issue stems from NJ Transit’s announcement that it might privatize its assets, including the parking facilities at its stations around the state. NJ Transit is seeking private companies to take over parking, and its RFQ states that the successful proposer will earn the exclusive right to operate the concession assets and to collect parking and other revenues. The concession agreement is anticipated to be in the range of 30 to 50 years.
According to figures provided by NJ Transit, Princeton Junction station averages about 7,030 weekday boardings. The figures also show that NJ Transit controls 72 percent — or 2,625 of the total 3,635 — of the parking spaces at the train station. The annual gross revenue brought in by parking facilities at the train station is $3.13 million.
Hamilton station accommodates about 5,000 weekday riders and generates $4.7 million, while Trenton Transit Center handles 5,200 weekday riders and generates $2.8 million, according to NJ Transit.
Andy Lupo, the chairman of the West Windsor Parking Authority, said that there will be no impact on WWPA-owned spaces and facilities.