Lack of funds halts campus construction

Lack of funds halts campus construction

Construction has been halted on the Jewish Community Campus site in West Windsor, as fund-raising has fallen short of the $28 million needed to complete the project.

In a March 6 letter to community supporters, Howard Cohen, the president of the Jewish Community Campus Council, wrote, “Over the past several months, Campus leadership has been working tirelessly to raise the working capital and funds necessary to finish this project.

“Unfortunately, we have not been successful. This is a very difficult time for all of us.”

A December 2012 opening had been planned for the Jewish Community Campus, designed to accommodate a range of Jewish agencies and the Betty and Milton Katz JCC of Princeton Mercer Bucks. But the economic downturn and other factors have blocked its progress.

“We have been unable to pay the contractor and we cannot at this point meet our obligations under our loan agreement,” Cohen explained in the letter. “We face litigation and potential foreclosure.

“The bottom line is that only a major immediate infusion of funds can save the Campus from being lost.”

“We have over $6 million in assets on our balance sheet, but unfortunately much of it is not liquid,” he continued. “Without these funds, we cannot finish construction and open the doors to the Campus.”

According to Cohen, $11 million still needs to be raised to repay the lender, with $6 million of that due by December of 2013, and an additional $5 million payable over time.

The campus’s 77,000-square-foot facility on the Clarksville Road site is nearly complete, and last March supporters attended a “topping off” ceremony to mark the placement of the last steel beam in the structure.

In his letter, Cohen paid tribute to the generosity of those who have supported the project, but it does not seem likely that there will be sufficient communal commitment to cover the long-term debt.

Cohen wrote that sufficient pledges payable over multi-year commitments would have been sufficient to complete the construction, but efforts to accelerate these payments and /or “monetize” them were not successful.

“We wish we had better news to report,” he said, “but the simple truth is, unless some heroes step up to help us now in a big way, the project will be terminated.”

The campus project was initiated 13 years ago as a central home for the JCC, the Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks, Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County, and the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Mercer. Lee Rosenfield, the chief executive officer of both the campus and the JCC, said the goal was to create a cohesive center where the community could come together for a broad range of programs and activities.

In recent years, the federation, JFCS, and the foundation have been housed in separate locations, and they continue to function that way.

Cohen pointed out that all the agencies continue and will continue to provide services and that the Jewish Community Center “is still present and active without walls.” The Abrams Day Camp and Teen Travel programs will go on this summer, unaffected by the financial shortfall.

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