A 32-acre plot known locally as the Golden Triangle is slated to be transformed into Cornerstone at East Brunswick, a transit-centric mixed-use community in central New Jersey that, as planned, would include 402 condos. According to local sources, prices would start in the $350,000 range. The redevelopment plan, though, has been a political football for decades, most recently during the township’s mayoral race, whose victor has occasionally expressed reservations about it in the past.

Toll Brothers, which owns the site, declines to discuss Cornerstone’s timetable. “It’s an extremely complex project with many different moving parts, but at this time we have no comment,” Kira McCarron, the builder’s vice president of marketing, told Builder a few days before the mayoral election on Nov. 4. The current dismal state of the housing market lurks behind any decision to move forward, but Toll has negotiated a deal that conceivably could make money for the company even if it walks away.

Change in plans

East Brunswick, a bedroom community of around 50,000 people, has been pondering what to do with the Golden Triangle since the late 1970s, well before 2005 when Toll agreed to pay $35.4 million to purchase the land from the township. The parcel is sandwiched between a highway and a service road, with strip malls to its right and left and across the highway, and a sprawling industrial park to its rear. The site ­includes a bus terminal for township residents who commute into New York and Jersey City. There’s a 300-acre landfill a half mile to the north.

Bill Neary, who decided not to seek re-election after 12 years as mayor, recalled that the township started rethinking the Golden Triangle’s redevelopment in 2003, five years before the township’s 30-year lease would expire. At the time, the site was being used by a 60-vendor flea market that had been a local institution for three decades; a furniture store; and a Sam’s Club, which pays the township just under $500,000 per year in rent, “well below market rate,” laments Neary. (The flea market closed on Nov. 2; Toll extended the leases for the furniture store and Sam’s through 2010.)

Originally, Toll offered to build a transit village with 500,000 square feet of commercial and retail space in 15 buildings. The village would have included between 210 and 230 age-restricted homes and three parking garages. When completed, the redeveloped property was projected to yield $3 million in annual tax revenue. But market forces changed all that. A glut of office space in the area forced Toll to reconfigure Cornerstone. The proposal that East Brunswick’s planning board approved last April now includes 185,765 square feet of retail and restaurant space, no office space, and 402 condos without age restrictions. (On top of the $30.4 million it is paying for the land and $5 million to build a community center, Toll agreed to pay the township a one-time $20,000 fee for every school-aged child who moves into Cornerstone.)

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