The township owns the property, having acquired it in 2003 for$6.5 million to thwart a plan by Home Depot to build a nearly105,000-sf store on the site. That plan had raised considerableopposition from nearby residents and an adjacent church. Generalplans for the redevelopment that have been drawn up by townshipplanner Michael Fowler and his land use department call for a mixof residential, retail and office space, and a hotel/conferencecenter.

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"It's been more than five years since the Foodtown was taken offthe tax rolls by the previous administration," says Mayor StephenAcropolis. "Getting that property back on the tax rolls, and doingit in a way that's in the best interest of our community, has beena priority for us."

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The current township council had earlier designated the propertyas "an area in need of redevelopment," a move that elicited morethan 100 expressions of interest. The deadline for formal responsesto the township's subsequent RFP was Aug. 7, and the four proposalsto be unveiled this week have emerged from that process.

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"When we announced that we were going to sell the property as aredevelopment site, we were confident that we would see someinterest," Acropolis says. "But we didn't expect to have more than100 different parties, 109 to be exact, contact the township.

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"For five years, the township has owned the Foodtown, and itlooks no different today than it did on the day we signed thecontract," he says. "That's unacceptable, and that's why we aremoving forward on this plan. The redevelopment process is moretime-consuming than simply selling the property to the highestbidder, but this process has given us a greater say in what isbuilt in this environmentally sensitive area, one that has frequenttraffic congestion."

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The unveiling of the four proposals will be followed by avetting process by the township's land use department, withrecommendations expected to come by the end of this month. Townshipofficials say they expect to select a redeveloper by the end of theyear, and to start actual redevelopment work by June 2009.

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