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SOMERVILLE, NJ-When it was built 25 years ago, Downtown Somerville, as the shopping center was called, was an innovation–a suburban-type strip center along this city’s Main Street. It was innovative, too, in that it had suburban-type parking, albeit positioned behind the center so the project would retain its Main Street retail frontage.

But the property has fallen on hard times, and borough council members have designated the site for redevelopment, opening the way for Edgewood Properties to move ahead with an ambitious plan to replace it with a mixed-use project. Officials of the Piscataway, NJ-based Edgewater Properties have put a $66-million price tag on it.

The project would actually include much of the existing building stock, although the site would be significantly reconfigured. Under the plan, according to Edgewood officials who unveiled it to borough council members, Somerville Town Center would include street-level retail and office space topped off by 265 luxury apartments, which would be new construction on top of the old.

Two new 5,000-sf retail buildings would also be built, and the retail component also calls for renovation of an existing Pathmark supermarket and the relocation of an existing McDonald’s. Edgewood officials also estimate that the redeveloped site would generate upward of $600,000 a year in local taxes and create approximately 200 new jobs.

The timeframe remains open, although Edgewater officials, pending approvals, say they expect to start work early next year and have it completed by early 2007. Company and local representatives both indicate that they will seek state tax breaks and grants for the project.

In a related matter, local officials of this Somerset County community say they are also looking for someone to develop a nearby 100-acre former landfill site. An earlier deal with New Rochelle, NJ-based Rosenshein Associates fell apart years ago and the break-up was subject to a years-long lawsuit. Local officials say they will seek to have anything developed on the latter site connected to the new Somerville Town Center via an underpass under the New Jersey Transit tracks that separate the sites.

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