Howard Hughes Corp. files suit against West Windsor regarding development of long-vacant 658-acre site

Howard Hughes Corp. filed suit against the governing body of West Windsor Township late Thursday in an apparent attempt to spur movement on a real estate development project that has been stalled for more than a decade.

In the civil complaint, filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey in Mercer County by Princeton-based Jonathon Preziosi, an attorney at Pepper Hamilton LLP, HHC said the township has failed to take any action to grant or deny its request to develop a 658-acre site that has been vacant since 2004.

It is the largest tract of vacant land under single ownership in West Windsor.

“The site is a former industrial property that American Cyanamid developed in the 1950s for activities that included research and development of agricultural chemicals and animal health and nutrition products,” according to the lawsuit.

“The site consists of approximately 658 acres of unimproved land together with approximately 60 buildings in various states of disrepair, all of which were obsolescent and have been abandoned and vacant since Wyeth, as the successor of American Cyanamid, ceased operations at the site in 2004.”

HHC has been pursuing development on the site for several years, and most recently, in 2017, unveiled plans for a mixed-use development.

The plan includes a village center with shops, restaurants and public spaces, a 32-acre site for a school and community recreation facilities, hotel and office space, residential neighborhoods with a full range of housing options, and 240 acres of open space with parks, walking and biking trails and preserved areas.

But the land isn’t zoned for anything other than office, R&D and limited manufacturing and warehouse uses.

“The current (zoning) of the site is obsolete and has not been updated in any significant respect since it was adopted in or about 1980,” according to the suit. “The township has recognized the need for a ‘special planning study’ to consider alternative zoning options for the site since as early as its re-examination of the Master Plan in 2000, but has, for nearly two decades now, forestalled any such study.”

HHC said in the lawsuit that it has continued to own the site and work on development plans — all at a significant cost to the company, with nothing to show in return.

“(HHC)’s efforts to find a potential user of the site under its current zoning have been unsuccessful,” according to the suit. “Absent either a redevelopment designation or a conventional rezoning, there is no economically viable option for development of the site.”

HHC pitched the site as an option for Amazon’s HQ2.