Plainsboro’s Forrestal Village takes on a new look

Retail uses de-emphasized.

By: Gwen McNamara
   PLAINSBORO — A lot can change in a year.
   That’s especially true at Princeton Forrestal Village, where there are now new tenants, new owners and plans to transform the look of the center.
   In January of last year, The Gale Co., then manager of the property, received approval to create a 90,000-square-foot retail core at the village, surrounded by a mix of professional office and business uses, including space for doctors, dentists, architects, fitness and education in the remaining 115,000 square feet of retail space.
   Since then, new tenants, such as Princeton Dance & Theater Studio, David Learner Associates, a retail bond-brokerage company and Apple Spice, a combination caterer and restaurant, have moved into some of the new mixed-use space.
   "We’re in the process of infilling spaces with hybrid-type uses," said Greg Lezynski, marketing director at The Gale Co.
   To attract new tenants, the company is using a combination of advertising, billboards, mailers and direct contact with prospective candidates, he said.
   "We’re also trying to get the word out in the brokerage community," he added.
   The Gale Co. even hired Levin Management, a specialist in retail marketing, to identify strong retail candidates for the core of the mixed-use section.
   "We’re trying to shift the focus of the village, but we still have a strong commitment to a retail component here, albeit smaller than originally conceived," Mr. Lezynski said.
   In addition, The Gale Co., which has been involved in managing Princeton Forrestal Village since 1991, purchased the village in partnership with several individual investors and GE Partners Group from Praedium Princeton LLC between late August and early September.
   The purchase, reported to cost around $40 million, covers the buildings in Princeton Forrestal Village. The land is owned by Princeton Forrestal Center, an entity of Princeton University.
   "The Gale Co. recognized the long-term value of Princeton Forrestal Village and saw this as an opportune time to purchase the center," Mr. Lezynski said. "The pre-existing owner was not prepared to invest the amount of money needed to improve the property."
   The Gale Co. is planning to initially invest around $3 million in capital improvements, for things like redoing the facade of the retail area and building a pedestrian bridge from the center’s parking garage to a nearby building.
   "We have already designed a change for the look of the Rockingham Plaza area, to make it more attractive for a mix of uses, and are in the process of working out plans to change the signage throughout the center as well," Mr. Lezynski said.
   The facade of the ground-floor tenants along Rockingham Row will be changed to a brick with new contemporary windows and doors, he said.
   Mr. Lezynski expects the facade changes to be completed by May or June of this year. Plans are still being drawn up for the pedestrian bridge, which will connect the center’s parking garage with Building D, a building adjacent to the parking deck and Market Hall where the food court is located.
   The Gale Co. has no plans to change any of its 300,000-square-foot traditional office space, a historically strong section of the village. Recently new tenants, such as TIAA-CREF and Right Management Consultants, have moved into that area, Mr. Lezynski noted.
   Michael LaPlace, director of community development for Plainsboro Township, said he is excited about the proposed retail changes.
   "The facade improvements will give the area a nice look and with the signage the center will have a whole new visual identity," he said. "We’ve approved the permits for the facade changes, but everything else has not been formalized."
   David Knights, marketing director at Princeton Forrestal Center, said Princeton University and Princeton Forrestal Center are pleased with the overall progress at Princeton Forrestal Village.
   "We are thrilled with the change in ownership," he said. "We’re all very much on the same page and think The Gale Co. is doing a great job."
   In the future, Mr. Lezynski says The Gale Co. plans to continue to push forward in its goal to reinvent the village one last time.
   "Princeton Forrestal Village is an aesthetically beautiful property and we see it having great potential," he said. "With our already strong office component, our goal is to broaden the range of our target tenant group for the retail section and we believe our efforts will be successful."