TRENTON, N.J. - Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes today joined with members of the Board of Chosen Freeholders, Ewing Township officials, and representatives of the Jewish Community Center to announce the County's landmark purchase of the JCC property.
After several months of negotiations with the Jewish Community Center Foundation and the estate of Ellis Pierson, Mercer County and Ewing Township have agreed to terms to purchase approximately 38 acres of the property for $8.1 million.
"Today I am proud to announce one of the most important open space purchases in the history of the County," Hughes said. "Not only is this our first preservation effort in Ewing, it also rescues from possible destruction due to development the famed 'Trenton bathhouses' built by renowned architect Louis Kahn."
The County will buy 36 acres of the JCC property, including all structures, using approximately $7.7 million in funds from the Open Space Preservation Trust Fund, while Ewing Township will purchase the main JCC building located on approximately two acres for about $400,000. The purchase marks the first acquisition in Ewing using the Open Space Preservation Trust Fund.
The 38 acres are zoned for residential use and could have been subdivided into 108 individual lots for development. The area is served with public water and sewer. The remaining four acres of land along Sylvia Street on the 42-acre parcel will not be sold to the County and will either be sold or developed by the sellers.
Mercer County will transfer ownership of its 36 acres to Ewing Township with a conservation easement, which protects the recreational and outdoor character of the property, and an historic preservation easement, which protects the historic integrity of the Kahn bathhouses, the Pavilion, and the surrounding land.
As the owner, Ewing will be responsible for maintaining the JCC property and the township is expected to enter into a lease or purchase agreement within weeks to house its Senior Center in the main JCC building. The township will operate and maintain the grounds and pool as a municipal park.
"This is truly the best outcome for everyone involved," Hughes said. "Ewing Township now has a well-known site where it can expand its activities for seniors and will also benefit greatly from ratables once the four-acre parcel is developed."
"At the same time, this will be a vibrant community center for years to come and a place where people from all over the world can continue to visit the Kahn bathhouses."
In 1997, the Kahn bathhouses were labeled by Preservation New Jersey, a Trenton-based statewide preservation group, as one of the "Ten Most Endangered Historic Sites" in the state.
The JCC's Golden Agers program and Carousel programs will continue operating in the main building as well, and it is hoped eventually the township's Senior Center and the Golden Agers will merge their efforts.
Ewing will use grant funds from Mercer County designated for acquisition or construction of a senior center to cover its portion of the purchase. The County anticipates funding from the state Green Acres program, although an exact amount has not been determined.
The JCC will have the right to lease back the campgrounds and associated structures for summer 2007.
While all the parties involved in the purchase have agreed to the terms, the contract is subject to approvals by the respective boards of each entity. Some of the usual parts of a closing remain to be completed, including title work, surveying, and environmental assessments, but closing is projected to occur as soon as early next year.
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