JACKSON, NJ-Mitch Leigh is best known as the composer of the score for “Man of La Mancha,” but he also owns 960 valuable acres in this Central New Jersey township, and he wants to turn the mostly vacant tract into a major mixed-use development. According to a published report, on the table for preliminary approval is Jackson Commons, a $600-million, 2.9-million-sf project that would occupy about one-third of the site.

As spelled out late Tuesday to local officials by the lead engineer for the project, David Eareckson of the Lakewood-based LGA Engineering, Jackson Commons would include a 240-room, five-story hotel of approximately 70,000 sf, two warehouse buildings totaling nearly 700,000 sf of space and 35 other commercial buildings of unspecified uses. Eareckson could not be reached for comment.

The proposal succeeds an earlier one for the site, Jackson Towne Centre, which would have cost upward of $850 million. The earlier plan would have included more than 2.7 million sf of commercial space, more than 5,000 single and multifamily residences, plus a variety of entertainment and recreational facilities.

The site, which is located at the intersection of I-195 and Route 527, is zoned for a combination of light manufacturing and highway commercial, and the earlier proposal would have required substantial variances. In the face of substantial opposition to the Towne Centre proposal, local officials took a pass on making any changes in the zoning.

Eareckson told local officials at the preliminary hearing Tuesday that the latest proposal would largely comply with existing zoning, requiring only a handful of variances relating to building heights. The local planning board is expected to vote on the preliminary approval by the end of this month. Such approval would pave the way for preliminary land improvements.

Jackson Commons is one of two major projects that composer Leigh has before local officials. The other, called Leigh at Jackson, is a residential development that would consist of more than 1,600 residential units in a combination of condos, townhouses and single-family homes. The Leigh at Jackson site is adjacent to the Jackson Commons site, and both are not far from the Six Flags Great Adventure theme park.

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