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HELMETTA, NJ-This borough’s planning board has voted 8 to 0 to approve preliminary plans for the $70-million Heritage at Helmetta, a mixed-use redevelopment of a former snuff factory proposed by the Kaplan Cos. As reported by GlobeSt.com, the Highland Park-based Kaplan won the redevelopment rights in a three-way competition in May 2005 and subsequently executed a formal redevelopment agreement in early 2006.

“We appreciate the strong support we have received from the community,” says Jason Kaplan, president of Kaplan Cos., who estimates that the completed project “will generate $1 million in property tax revenue” to this community of just 2,000 residents. “We’re working to turn this site into a development that the entire town can be proud of.”

The site plan, as it currently stands, calls for 225 age-restricted homes on a 32-acre site that formerly housed the Helme Snuff Co., owned by town founder George W. Helme. Also slated for the site is some 10,000 sf of retail space, designed in a Main Street configuration, along with a 3,000-sf civic building that will be donated to the community. Residents of the age-restricted housing component will also have a private clubhouse. Finally, 367 parking spaces are part of the site plan. Two existing industrial buildings on the site will be renovated into condos.

The redevelopment area is made up of five parcels of property on Main Street now owned by Kaplan. The buildings on the site have been closed since 1993 and have largely fallen into disrepair, according to Kaplan. Since acquiring the property last year, Kaplan has cleaned up the property, including removing piles of debris left by 13 years of inactivity. The developer has also lined the property with protective fencing.

Pending final municipal and state approvals, Kaplan hopes to start construction in the fall. Depending on market conditions, company officials say it could take anywhere between two and five years to build out.

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