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Ideal Institute of Technology: Repurposing as Redevelopment.

What do you do with an office building that's outlived its usefulness to the original occupant? For Ren Parikh, the founder and driving force behind the Ideal Institute of Technology the answer was easy. Repurpose it into Ideal's main campus.

For many years the three-story white office building with bands of tinted glass on Washington Avenue in Pleasantville, New Jersey served as headquarters of a regional South Jersey newspaper. Regardless of whether you view the building's architecture as dull and uninspiring or as classic, mid-century minimalism, by 2021 technology-induced changes in the industry enabled its newspaper occupant to downsize its need for physical office space and the building came on the real estate market for sale; a victim of technologically-induced obsolescence. Enter Ren Parikh.

A veteran of Atlantic City's hotel-casino industry, Ren Parikh saw a local employment market dominated by that industry with limited opportunities outside of that industry. Against that background, in 2014 Parikh formulated his concept for the Ideal Institute of Technology, a New Jersey Non-Profit Corporation which has been designated a 501c(3) entity by the IRS.Today, Ideal is an educational institution that provides its students with vocational, career and entrepreneurship programs in business management, advanced manufacturing, technology, film, television and related media, and hospitality management, among others. As of 2021 Ideal was operating from two locations in Atlantic County; one in Pleasantville; the other in Mays Landing. In the vacant Pleasantville newspaper building Parikh envisioned a location for Ideal's main campus that would include administrative offices, classrooms, a new workshop building, a tiny house to be used to test emerging residential solar energy technologies and a hydroponic greenhouse for use in expanded agricultural programs. The problem, however, is that under Pleasantville's zoning ordinances, none of that would be permitted. Undeterred, Parikh, saw a path forward through New Jersey's Local Redevelopment and Housing Law, N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-1, et. seq.

Parikh prevailed upon Pleasantville's Mayor and Council to direct the City's Planning Board to undertake the required study to determine whether the statutorily defined criteria necessary to designate the property in question as an "area in need of redevelopment" existed. City Council's decision to undertake that investigation likely was made easier by the fact that no public financial support for the project of any type whatsoever was requested; no redevelopment area bonds, no short-term tax abatement, no long-term tax exemption. The only money at risk was Parikh's private investment in the project.

When completed, the study found that the property met the statutory criteria as an area in need of redevelopment. The "1000 West Washington Avenue Redevelopment Plan" allowing for Parikh's envisioned use of the property was adopted whereupon Ideal and Pleasantville entered into a Memorandum of Understanding which required negotiation and execution of a Redevelopment Agreement by which Ideal would agree to redevelop the property as Ideal's main campus. At that point Parikh enlisted the services of the land use and redevelopment attorneys at Nehmad Davis & Goldstein, PC of Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey whose efforts on behalf of Ideal were led by William J. Kaufmann, Esquire.

A Redevelopment Agreement was negotiated and in February 2024 the project was presented to the Pleasantville Planning Board. Upon completion of a lengthy hearing, the Board granted preliminary and final site plan approval for conversion of the main building to administrative offices and classrooms, along with development of the tiny house and the hydroponic greenhouse all of which is planned to for completion during 2024. The Board also granted preliminary site plan approval for the new workshop building which is slated to be completed during 2025.

Once Ideal's redevelopment of the site has been completed as per its Agreement with the City, the conditions which caused the Project area to be an "area in need of redevelopment" will be considered, by statute, to no longer exist thereby achieving the goal of City's Mayor and Council as expressed in its Redevelopment Plan.N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-9.

Ideal's repurposing of a vacant newspaper building into its main campus is a textbook example of a type of redevelopment for which New Jersey's Local Redevelopment and Housing Law was intended. It is the type of redevelopment project to which the land use attorneys at Nehmad Davis & Goldstein, PC regularly bring their considerable experience throughout the State of New Jersey.

Inquiries to William J. Kaufmann, Esquire may be emailed to: wkaufmann@ndglegal.com

The above discussion is intended to provide general informational information only and should not be relied upon as competent legal advice from experienced attorneys relative to any specific matters.

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