EDEN AUTISM SERVICES PLANS EXPANSION AT FORRESTAL VILLAGE
August 24, 2010
PLAINSBORO — Officials at Eden Autism Services said yesterday they’d lined up the necessary $16 million in funds to create a school and headquarters complex at Forrestal Village in a project that will employ over 230 construction workers starting in late September.
Carol Markowitz, chief operating officer of Eden, said that the current school, located just off Route 1 in West Windsor, no longer suits the growing needs of the organization. The new facility will occupy the building previously owned by The Harmony School.
“We’ll be retrofitting that building and then adding on,” said Aileen Kornblatt, a spokeswoman for Eden.
The Harmony School, a day care center, has moved to another location within Forrestal Village.
“We were looking for expansion capability,” Markowitz said. “But even more importantly, our new building is going to have lots of facilities our current building doesn’t have. It really will expand our ability to provide services in some new areas.”
A culinary arts program, convenience store, and two-story gymnasium will be among the new facilities offered to students of Eden with the construction of the new administrative and school complex on 3.5 acres of land in the Forrestal Village.
Eden is a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of people with autism and their families.
This project will be funded by $12 million in tax-exempt private activity bonds issued by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) and purchased by PNC Capital Markets, as well as by $4 million raised by Eden’s “Nurturing Today, Embracing Tomorrow” capital campaign.
Markowitz called retrofitting plans “pretty significant” and went on to explain that the second floor of the Forrestal Village building will be used exclusively for administrative offices.
The ground floor will, for the most part, be reserved for students, and will include classrooms, the cafeteria and commercial kitchen in which the culinary arts training will occur, an office training room, and a convenience store.
She said that such facilities will allow for further training in career skills and in skills that allow students to adopt independent lifestyles.
The convenience store and office training room will be used for job preparation, and the culinary arts program will teach students food-handling skills that will allow them to prepare meals for themselves and others.
Additions to the existing building will also be significant.
“We’re adding the gymnasium wing and back from there will be a classroom wing, which will be two stories,” said Markowitz.
The construction costs, as estimated by Eden in its application for bond financing from the EDA, will total $6.73 million, with an additional $1.75 million set aside for land acquisition and the remainder of the $12 million used for equipment purchases and other incidental costs.
“Bond financing provides companies and organizations with long-term loans that generally have a lower cost of financing,” said Erin Gold, public affairs officer for the EDA.
She added that the EDA often works with nonprofits through this federally authorized program, and that such bonds provide capital to organizations that might not otherwise have access to it.
According to Gold, Eden’s application was particularly compelling for two reasons.
“In Eden’s case, it helped them to expand, which is wonderful news for New Jersey,” Gold said.
“We are also very focused on anything that can create jobs,” noting expectations for more than 230 construction jobs.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the new building is scheduled for Sept. 23 at 10 a.m. Markowitz estimates that construction will take 18 months, after which the 80 students currently enrolled at the Eden Institute will move to the new facility, and the existing facility will be closed.
“Initially we’ll have the same number of students, but eventually we will be able to add some new classes,” said Markowitz. “That’s a long-term goal.”