HIGHLAND PARK, NJ - The Merriewold at Highland Park, a 196-unit luxury apartment complex on a bluff overlooking the Raritan River, opened its doors to the community with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday.

The complex was designed to blend in architecturally with the fabled Merriewold Castle, which was built on the property in 1926 by Seward Johnson, the son of New Brunswick-based Johnson & Johnson co-founder, Robert Wood Johnson.

The castle, built with finest stone, slate, glass and other materials, was purchased in 1968 by builder Nathan Kaplan, who moved his company’s offices into the building, but left what remained of the once vast estate untouched.

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Jason Kaplan, Nathan’s son and president of Kaplan Companies, said the company had numerous opportunities to develop the 17-acres behind the castle over the years, but waited for the right opportunity. 

“My family has been proud to own the Castle for three generations and we have been careful to maintain the special characteristics of the land,” Kaplan said. “This is a special place, where I have spent my entire life. It has a tremendous history, which underscores why today is so important.”

The Merriewold at Highland Park is designed to be something more than a traditional apartment complex, where neighbors keep to themselves, Kaplan explained.

Rather, the complex boasts shared amenities such as a playground, resort-style swimming pool, an outdoor kitchen and firepit and a clubhouse with a lounge on-demand yoga and pilates classes.

Residents will also be able to enjoy community events such as cocktails and paint and sip parties, said property manager Gerry Lastella-Ranei, as little or as much as they’d like.

Lastella-Ranei said prospective tenants are drawn to the Merriewold by its unique charm, authentic feel, the castle and the site’s proximity to the heart of Highland Park.

“We really see Merriewold as an oasis, in easy walking distance to the Highland Park downtown and only a mile from train stations in New Brunswick and Edison,” Kaplan said.

When tenants turn off River Road, they’ll feel as if they are pulling into an estate as they drive along a winding, wooded driveway leading to the complex. Merriewold at Highland Park backs up to the Rutgers University preserve. It is across the street from Johnson Park, which the Johnson family donated to Middlesex County, as part of the original 2,000 acres of Merriwold.

The complex offers modern amenities like those at other recently-opened Kaplan projects in Bayonne and Helmetta. 

“Each over-sized unit has high-end finishes, such as glass back splashes, quartz counter tops and stainless steel appliances,” Kaplan said.

Among those in attendance at the ribbon cutting were Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak, Highland Park Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler and Highland Park Councilmembers Matt Hersh and Stephany Kim.

Mittler called the Merriewold the “first real Highland Park luxury apartment complex in decades.” 

Tenants can pick from one, two or three-bedroom rentals. Rent is $1,875 for a one-bedroom apartment, $2,375 for a two-bedroom unit and $3,000 for a three bedroom, but new residents will not have to pay rent until 2018.