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New Developer Asks to Speed Up Massive Montgomery Twp Retail Project

By Barbara A. Preston | December 23, 2021

The 287,000-square-foot “town center” approved for the corner of Route 206 and Route 518 in Montgomery Township may not include the name “Montgomery,” but town officials are making sure it will include a promenade.

Originally to be called Montgomery Promenade — the center would be larger than Princeton MarketFair (246,000 square feet) on Route 1.

Will the proposed Montgomery Promenade be renamed Princeton Promenade?

Madison Marquette, a leading private real estate investment company headquartered in Washington, D.C., originally planned the massive development. It was to include a Whole Foods Supermarket, a movie theater with a bowling alley and bar, a day care center, an LL Bean, an Ulta cosmetics, a Panera, and more.

One of the key selling points was to be an open-air, tree-lined Main Street featuring a public green — a community focal point and gathering place for the surrounding communities.

After a recession, and now embroiled in a pandemic, there is a new player on the scene: SJC Ventures of Atlanta, Georgia. SJC has a contract to purchase the 53.5-acre field next to the Princeton Airport on Route 206 from Madison Marquette.

SJC appeared before the Montgomery Planning Board on December 13, seeking a variance to build the complex in two phases, rather than one.

They also asked to expedite the construction of the new Whole Foods market and the 34 single family home lots along the Route 518 section of the project. The housing component is a significant part of the profit. Montgomery Township has excellent schools and housing is in high demand right now.

Matthew Robinson, senior vice president of development for SJC, proposed that Phase 1 would include a loop road connecting routes 518 and 206. It would also include the Whole Foods Supermarket, construction of the day care facility, a bank, a restaurant with a drive-thru, and other retail/mixed use buildings.

Site Plan with new with proposed through roads in red.

The developer proposed Phase 2 would include the promenade, the movie theater, and several “mixed use” retail buildings.

Unsure whether the developer would ever get around to building Phase 2, planning board members insisted the promenade part be included in Phase 1. Mayor Devra Keenan, who is also a planning board member, went as far as to hold hostage the single family lots, and suggested moving those into Phase 2.

VP Robinson was not amenable to the mayor’s suggestion.

“We need to deliver all the single family lots in Phase 1,” Robinson said.

Ultimately, the Planning Board approved phasing the project into two parts, however, the promenade will be part of Phase 1, and only 29 of the single family lots.

Phase 2 would include the remaining five single family lots and the rest of the commercial buildings.

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SJC asked for, and received, approval to start site improvements (referred to at the meeting as horizontal improvements) prior to having final approval from certain outside agencies which included: Somerset County, NJDOT and the Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission.

SJC will return to the Planning Board for Final Site Plan approval soon. Construction is anticipated to begin in the third quarter of 2022.

Planning Board Chairman Dave Campeas asked:

“I’m going to assume that going from Montgomery Promenade to Princeton Promenade is just for your LLC, not how it’s going to be presented to the public?”

VP Robinson answered that SJC has not yet decided on a name for the shopping center.

Robinson gave no commitment regarding the name for the center.

“It’s a branding question that we need to assess,” Robinson said. ■


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