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Down economy trims costs for planned community site
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Down economy trims costs for planned community site

Taking part in the Feb. 1, 2009, ceremonial ground-breaking ceremony at the campus site are, from left, Donald Leibowitz, president of the JCC of Princeton Mercer Bucks; Howard Cohen; Ken Mack and Daniel Brent, former United Jewish Federation of Princeton
Taking part in the Feb. 1, 2009, ceremonial ground-breaking ceremony at the campus site are, from left, Donald Leibowitz, president of the JCC of Princeton Mercer Bucks; Howard Cohen; Ken Mack and Daniel Brent, former United Jewish Federation of Princeton

Even in the gloom of the lingering recession, sometimes there is an “on the other hand” angle.

In the case of the planned Jewish Community Campus of Princeton Mercer Bucks, this is how it works: While it has become harder to raise funds for the project — estimated last year at around $23 million — economic pressure has yielded some major cost-cutting benefits.

“It’s kind of a yin-yang process,” said Drew Staffenberg, executive director of the Jewish Community Campus Development Council, the organization overseeing the project. “Without taking any elements away from the project, we’ve been able to save about 11 or 12 percent. The contractors want the work, so they’re willing to negotiate.”

The 77,000-square-foot facility on the 80-acre campus site on Clarksville Road in West Windsor will house the United Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks, the Betty and Milton Katz JCC, Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County, and Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Mercer.

Following a meeting on Jan. 11, Ron Berman and Howard Cohen, cochairs of the council, announced that the campus leadership had raised about 90 percent of the funds needed to begin construction.

“We are moving ahead,” they said in an e-mail to NJJN.

Berman emphasized the importance of quick action. “Construction prices are the lowest they’ve been in years, as are costs for commodities such as steel, copper, and PVC,” he said. “We are able to reduce our costs by about $1.5 million, provided we begin construction within the next 90 days or so.”

The campus has been a long time in the planning — almost 12 years. Barring major problems, Staffenberg said, it should open around the middle of next year.

Staffenberg came on board in June 2006. He had hoped to see the campus open in 2010, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the area’s first JCC in Trenton in 1910.

“Once shovels are in the ground, the work generally goes quickly,” he said.

While some programs will still take place at other venues, the campus will be the new “downtown” for the community, said Staffenberg.

In addition to offices, the complex will include classrooms, meeting rooms, a kosher cafe and kitchen, a fitness facility, and recreational acreage for a camp and a family park.

The site is 14 minutes from the Scudders Falls Bridge between New Jersey and Pennsylvania on I-95, and about a 10-minute drive from the middle of Princeton.

Not everyone has been in favor of the “downtown” centralization. “Inevitably, you’re going to get some pushback,” Staffenberg said. “It’s hard for people to imagine what a place will be like until they see it. But once it’s up, there will be the ‘wow!’ factor, and people will come.”

The complex will offer all kinds of benefits in addition to its state-of-the-art facilities. For example, the new premises for JF&CS will allow the agency to expand the range of its support services and programs.

Staffenberg said, “They have labored in incredibly tight quarters [in Princeton] for a very long time; at the new campus they can spread their wings again.”

For more information on the proposed facility, JCC membership, or giving opportunities, visit www.jccampus.org.

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