BRIDGEWATER, NJ - With the planning board accepting the redevelopment site request from Advance Realty, and the township council having done the same Monday, the current vision is to turn the land on Route 202/206 into companies, retail and residential.
Advance Realty purchased the property where Sanofi was previously headquartered on Route 202/206, and then made a request to have it be considered for redevelopment. The entire facility is 110 acres, with more than 60 acres vacant.
According to an attorney with Advance Realty, the site was once assessed at $140 million, and now it is assessed at $50 million. At full build-out on the site, the property could be assessed at $179 million.
The planning board, in September, made a recommendation to the township council that the site be considered in need of redevelopment.
On Monday, the township council did the same, and sent it back to the planning board to work on the actual plan for redevelopment.
Mayor Dan Hayes said in a separate interview that Advance Realty has committed to more than $130 million for redevelopment on the site.
The buildings at the front of the property, Hayes said, were constructed in the 1960s, with the goal of having one tenant in the building.
“It was designed when energy costs were different,” he said. “The buildings are unsustainable. For all practical purposes, they are un-rentable.”
The current vision for the property, Hayes said, is to meet the requirements of large employers and data gathered of residents the township is looking to attract, particularly 20- to 35-year-olds, looking to be near work and different amenities.
Companies, Hayes said, will be co-located in the facility with restaurants and retail, as well as a component of small residential properties.
“They are geared toward a first-job person who wants to be close to work and near recreation,” he said. “Boutiques and small companies want to be there.”
Advance Realty, Hayes said, is calling the property the Center for Excellence, and the back area of the property, which has labs built in the 1990s, will also have tenants. He said there are some companies already there, mainly in technology, pharmaceuticals and life sciences.
Hayes said this redevelopment will increase the rateables in the area as the township is able to use that facility.
“I believe this will be an incredibly good thing for the community,” he said.
Several residents expressed concern at Monday’s meeting about what the property could become.
Resident Andy Leven said he had several questions about the redevelopment, but first was his concern over the possibility of increased school taxes because of young families moving into potential residential housing on the site.
“The economic situation in New Jersey certainly is dire,” he said. “But these are things that may raise taxes for residents.”
Leven said he also questions the plausibility of the idea that people will want to move to residential housing near their places of business, which could also be on the Advance Realty property.
“My understanding is there is a notion that if we build it they will come,” he said. “But I question the plausibility of the notion that if you build offices and then residential there, young people will come and live near their co-workers.”
“Where is the data where this concept is used elsewhere?” he asked.
Council president Matthew Moench emphasized that although it is no secret there has been talk about mixed uses on the property, there is no plan at this time.
Members of the council said that in reading a report from planners Scarlett Doyle and Frank Banisch, they are convinced that the Advance Realty property is in need of redevelopment. The report details development standards and upgrades needed on the property to bring it up to standards.
But there is no plan yet for what that redevelopment will be.
“I have no doubt it is an area in need of redevelopment as it meets the standards of blight,” Moench said.
“We have a site with a tremendous amount of potential for Bridgewater,” councilman Allen Kurdyla added.
Doyle said the process of creating a redevelopment plan is a lengthy one, and will take several months to develop a plan before it comes before the planning board for review and then to the township council.
Councilman Filipe Pedroso said he does support the redevelopment of the site, but would not support any kind of multi-housing complex on the site. He made a motion to accept the need for redevelopment under the provision that any proposed housing coming in a later plan is limited to single unit housing, but he failed to get a second on the motion.
With the council voting on the acceptance of the redevelopment plan as is, Pedroso was the lone vote against.
Hayes said he has no concern that this kind of development will be out of place in the township.
“A vacant 66 acres is what looks out of place,” he said. “There are no cars in and out of the area, and nothing productive on the 66 acres.”
“We are looking to make this a productive use,” he added.