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SOUTH BOUND BROOK, NJ-GAF vacated its aging industrial plant in this Somerset County community of 4,500 in 1987 when it stopped production of industrial films and moved its operations elsewhere. The 12-acre site and its obsolete brick buildings have been vacant ever since, and the object of much discussion about possible redevelopment.

The site has taken a giant step closer to rebirth with the signing, last week, of a redevelopment contract agreement between town officials and RPB.SBB, LLC to turn the tract into a mixed-use project. The developer is a joint venture between ReNEWal Economic Advisors, an offshoot of New York City-based ReNEWal Realty, and Princeton Brownfields Redevelopment.

“Somerset County has had a great deal of prosperity, but the Raritan River corridor from Bound Brook and South Bound Brook into Franklin Twp. has been an ongoing problem,” one county official, who did not want to be identified, told GlobeSt.com. “But the hurricane damage a few years ago, despite the human misery, was actually a turning point.

“Since then,” the official continues, “Bound Brook has made a major comeback. Franklin was already on the map with new office developments, and the successful redevelopment of the GAF site will provide a focal point for the area’s rebirth.”

“This agreement is historic for the community,” enthuses Mayor Jo-Anne Schubert. “The site will again be the economic development engine it once was. This agreement is the last piece in South Bound Brook’s redevelopment puzzle.”

The elongated site fronts on the Raritan Canal. Dug back in colonial times, the canal, a state historical site, parallels the Raritan River, and back in the 18th century was a major commercial thoroughfare between the hinterlands of the Colony of New Jersey and New York. A major archaeological dig is currently underway a few miles downriver at an 18th century port community called Raritan Landing.

History is likely to be part of the site’s redevelopment although the specifics of size, scope and mix still have to be worked out between community officials and the redevelopment group. A redevelopment timeline has not been announced for the project, nor have the financial details of the redevelopment agreement.

“This site has great potential, and we will work with the community to assure that it becomes a highlight along Main Street,” says Jorge Berkowitz, president of Princeton Brownfields Development. Adds Robert Stang, managing partner of ReNEWal Economic Advisors and managing member of RPB.SBB, “in generating a cohesive redevelopment plan for the town, we plan to create a vibrant mixed-use component.”

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