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PRINCETON, NJ-The Gale Co. and GE Partners Group have teamed up to buy Princeton Forrestal Village, a 495,000-sf mixed-use property, paying $39.6 million for the office/retail property. The seller was the Praedium Group LLC of New York City.

Built in 1987 and located adjacent to Princeton Forrestal Center, the property consists of 320,000 sf of office space, which is currently 93% leased, plus 175,000 sf of retail space, a 294-room Westin Hotel and an accredited daycare center, all laid out in an innovative village configuration. The property’s focal point is a landscaped square featuring a fountain and courtyards.

“We invested in this property because it is well-located along major commuter routes within the Princeton metro area,” says Praedium CFO Frank Patafio of the asset, which is situated in the New Jersey Turnpike/Route 1 corridor. “During our ownership, we developed an additional office building and enhanced occupancy significantly.”

Job one for Gale, which has exclusively leased and managed the property for Praedium for the last dozen years, is to fix the Village’s weak retail component, which has struggled for years and has never really found a market. The retail is divided among ground-floor shops underlying the project’s office buildings, as well as a separate two-level, 100,000-sf food-court-anchored shopping center that, other than the food court, has been largely vacant in recent years.

Under a township-approved plan, Gale will redevelop the struggling shopping center, to be renamed Rockingham Plaza, and is planning to convert much of its space into non-retail uses. Specifically, Gale is looking to target such user groups as medical, professional, health and fitness, education and personal service and restaurants, in addition to retail, according to Mark Yeager, the company’s president and chief investment officer.

Besides those specific uses, the new owners say they will target theater groups, cultural and recreational facilities and financial institutions to absorb some of Rockingham Plaza’s plentiful vacant space. Gale has hired Jarmel Kizel Architects & Engineers Inc. of Livingston, NJ to design the repackaged shopping center. No cost figures for the makeover have been released.

“Our plans to reposition Princeton Forrestal Village are moving along,” Yeager says. “Our goal is to re-establish Princeton Forrestal Village’s identity as a leading destination for corporations, professional firms and retailers looking to lease quality space in the Princeton marketplace.

“We look forward to making some additional, exciting announcements in the near future,” he concludes.

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