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Sean Ryan is associate editor of Real Estate New Jersey

HELMETTA, NJ-The Helmetta Borough Council has chosen Kaplan Cos. to convert the old, 32-acre Helme tobacco and snuff mill here to the Village of Helmetta. The $70-million project will demolish the existing brick buildings on the property, vacant since 1993.

Fourdevelopers were in the running for the property, including the Highland Park-based Kaplan and the Bridgewater-based Helmetta Lenape LLC, an affiliate of property owner Pizzo & Pizzo. Millennium Homes of Livingston and the Kalian Co. of Red Bank were the other two developers.

Plans call for 233 units of owner-occupied, age-restricted housing. Both three-story buildings and 2,500-sf townhouses are scheduled. The condos will be marketed starting in the mid-$200,000 range and townhouses starting in the low $300,000s. Approximately 13,000 sf of ground-floor retail is planned. A 3,000-sf community center, along with tennis and basketball courts, will be open to all borough residents. A private community center for Village residents only will also be constructed.

An earlier plan submitted by Kaplan had more than 300 residential units and up to 30,000-sf of retail space. “We have been meeting with Helmetta officials over the past two years, and I believe we have a strong understanding of where this community is headed,” says Jason Kaplan, president of Kaplan Cos. “This 32-acre project will serve as a significant source of property tax revenue for the borough, while also giving older Helmetta residents an opportunity to remain in town.”

Helmetta borough officials have stipulated the project be completed within 42 months of the start of construction. Construction will start six months after the land is transferred from Pizzo & Pizzo to Kaplan. Helmetta Lenape received borough council approval in 2004 to redevelop the property, but it was not able to reach a developer’s agreement within 30 days. The project is designed with a “neo-traditional feel” with all parking either under the condominium buildings or behind the townhouses.

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