Developed to address the area's convenience and service retailneeds, Crossroads at Somerset is the focal point of the Township'sretail overlay zone. The two-phase, 118,000-square-foot mixed-usedevelopment project is being spearheaded by Mahwah-based CrossroadsCompanies, LLC, a leading regional developer of neighborhood andsupermarket-anchored shopping centers in Northern and Central NewJersey.

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"In just a few short years, through a collaborative partnershipbetween private developers and public officials, Franklin Townshiphas transformed the western portion of the township from aonce-rural community into a thriving residential neighborhood withcomplementary retail services for professionals and families," saysStephen Hittman, Crossroads' president and founder.

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Crossroads completed the construction of a 70,000-square-footShopRite supermarket, which marked Phase I of their development infall 2007; Phase II is currently under construction. It includes43,000 square feet of neighborhood-oriented retail stores and afree-standing 4,000-square-foot Wachovia Bank. A fall 2010completion is expected.

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"Pre-2000, the region was dominated by farmland and propertieszoned for industrial uses," Ken Fioretti, Crossroads' developmentand leasing associate, tells GlobeSt.com. "The township determinedthat the area had significant portions of under-utilized land thatwould be ideal to accommodate strong population growth."

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The Township revised its master plan and rezoned large areas ofwestern Franklin Township to provide for new residentialdevelopment. Over a period of three to five years, more than 4,000new homes were created with a population boom of approximately8,000 new residents. "Once the population settled in, it becameclear that the community was in need of retail services," Fiorettiadds.

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Recognizing the potential of the master plan to transform thearea, Hittman and architect John Kerekes, of McCarthy &Kerekes, took the time to forge a relationship with Frank Hasner,the township's director of economic development. Hasner pointed outthat shoppers were driving significant distances to accomplishtheir food shopping needs, and the area was in dire need of retailservices. Crossroads worked with the township, which modified itsmaster plan to create a retail-overlay district. This paved the wayfor the Nov. 2007 opening of the new Village ShopRite, which is inclose proximity to the newly created residential communities.

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With an eye on bringing additional services to the community tocomplement the free-standing supermarket, Crossroads identified asix-acre site across from the ShopRite. Located at the intersectionof Elizabeth Avenue and New Brunswick Road, the former chicken farmhad been approved for a self-storage facility. ConcurrentlyCrossroads worked with Township officials to permit additionalretail uses.

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The Township agreed to vacate a portion of the road between thesupermarket and vacant parcel, so that Crossroads could align driveaisles, as well as access between the respective properties. Thiscreated a user-friendly, unified shopping environment with ease ofaccess between properties. The developer and Township also agreedto realign adjoining roads, which resulted in a reduction oftraffic for the surrounding residential communities. In addition,the township changed its bulk parking requirements, so that parkingrequirements were based on the combined 15-acre parcel; rather thantreating the development as two separate development projects. Theyhad the vision to see a single, cohesive neighborhood shoppingcenter.

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"Taking underutilized sites and turning them into productiveproperties, which generate needed ratables and neighborhoodservices, is reflective of the collaboration needed between atownship and developer," says Hittman. "Smart growth opportunitiesexist throughout New Jersey, but given scarcity of land andregulatory challenges, they can only be achieved when far-sightedpublic officials and private developers share a common goal andvision."

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