2003-07-24 / Front Page

Landing Ford Ave. project is his ‘dream come true’

New Brunswick
developer excited
to work in Milltown
By tara petersen
Staff Writer

Landing Ford Ave. project is his ‘dream come true’


A computer image (above) shows what the Ford Avenue area may one day look like from across the Mill Pond in Milltown.A computer image (above) shows what the Ford Avenue area may one day look like from across the Mill Pond in Milltown.

New Brunswick

developer excited

to work in Milltown

By tara petersen


At left, Sam (l-r), Omar and Wasseem Boraie look over one of their redevelopment plans alongside their design of a New Brunswick office building.At left, Sam (l-r), Omar and Wasseem Boraie look over one of their redevelopment plans alongside their design of a New Brunswick office building.

Staff Writer

Milltown — Omar Boraie fell in love with real estate while working as a chemist and part-time real estate agent in 1972.

That was just two years after he immigrated to America from his homeland of Egypt with the goal of finishing his doctorate degree in chemistry.

It took only three months in real estate and, like the houses he worked with, he was sold.


A rendering of the layout of Boraie’s conceptual plan for Milltown’s Ford Avenue.A rendering of the layout of Boraie’s conceptual plan for Milltown’s Ford Avenue.

"I absolutely loved it," Boraie said.

He quit chemistry and moved to Milltown with his wife, Madiha. By 1976 he had opened his own real estate office on Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick.

Boraie said he has seen downtown New Brunswick grow from a rough, run-down city into what it is today, and he has been a part of that change. He soon acquired the entire block on Albany Street where his corporate office is located.

"The whole block, and most of New Brunswick for that matter, was dilapidated," he said. "There were 21 buildings (on the Albany Street block) including retail, houses, vacant land and burned-down buildings."

That was replaced by the professional offices of Albany Street Plaza’s eight-story twin towers, two other renovated office buildings, a parking deck and the Harvest Moon restaurant.

"We were the first private developer to commit to do work in downtown New Brunswick," Boraie said. "We are still close to the only one."

Boraie said he has been "involved in almost every development in downtown New Brunswick."

"You have to have a vision as far as if a project would be successful, and consider if the town would be receptive to it," he said, noting that most people did not believe he would ever build the second tower on Albany Street.

Despite his previous successes, Boraie’s real "dream come true" is the opportunity to give something back to his hometown, Milltown.

His company, Boraie Development Ltd., was recently selected as the developer for the 20-acre Ford Avenue redevelopment project. The company was chosen from a field that also included Matzel & Mumford, Kaplan Cos. and American Properties.

Boraie has about 65 employees working in real estate and development, and includes Boraie Realties, a residential real estate branch with offices in Dayton and in New Brunswick.

In the last few years, his business has become much more of a family affair.

Sons Wasseem, 31, and Sam, 28, joined the company after being strongly encouraged by their father to "go out for two to three years and learn how to deal with people and learn how other corporations work. Only then will you be welcome to come join me."

Both sons are former Wall Street traders. Boraie’s wife is still in the chemistry field. The couple also has a 26-year-old daughter, Hiam, who is a buyer for Victoria’s Secret in New York City.

Boraie, now 62, believed that he would be chosen for the project because, he said, "I know what the people of Milltown want. (The Ford Avenue site) is the talk of the town. Every year people say, ‘I wish we had some nice restaurants on the water,’ or they would tell me they used to swim in the pond when they were young."

Boraie said he had always wished he could redevelop the site.

"Since I moved there I’ve been passing by the site twice a day or more, and I would say, ‘I wish I could do something with that.’ It could be great. Everyone told me that the owner was going to develop it next year, every year for 30 years they told me that. It is my dream to develop it one day."

When coming up with the plans for the site, he tried to "keep with the feeling" of present-day Milltown, where "we all (the residents) know each other. At the pharmacy, or milk store, or talking to a policeman on the street, they know who you are. It’s a great feeling."

Boraie’s concept plan for Ford Avenue includes single-family homes, town homes, duplexes and apartments — about 220 units total, all of which will be age-restricted housing — along with commercial and office space, restaurants, a pedestrian walkway, a gazebo and open space.

The gazebo will be at the end of a dock-like structure that juts out into the Mill Pond. Planned open spaces, some green and some paved, are dotted throughout the site and make up an estimated 25 percent of the area, according to Boraie. A paved open square near Clay Street could be used for "concerts in the summer," Boraie said.

Boraie, who "loves the water" and likes to read and play sports, made sure there was plenty of space for others to do the same. He envisions having a tennis court, two fitness centers, and several benches and places for "people to mix with other people."

"It’s exactly what people want — to be able to walk around there and have something nice to look at," he said.

Boraie discussed a conversation he had last week with Helen Benczk, a former Milltown resident who moved to Florida. Benczk had just found out about the decision by Milltown’s Ford Avenue Redevelopment Agency to go with Boraie Development.

"She was crying and screaming, ‘Omar, this is you. You deserve this.’ She said she wanted to move back and asked me to put her at the top of the list for a property on the lake. It really touched me," he said.

"All the work we have done all year was so worthwhile," he said. "Helping people is a great feeling."

Boraie said he loves living in Milltown and that he has come to know many people in the community.

"I raised my kids in Milltown," he said.

He said that once the land is acquired and the project can begin, it will take about three years to complete.

Currently, the property — owned by several private parties — consists of several factory buildings formerly used by the Michelin Tire Co. While some of the buildings are vacant, others are used by small businesses. The borough is expected to either purchase the land through negotiations with its owners or use condemnation.

Before the redevelopment can take place, environmental contamination on the property will have to be assessed and cleaned up.

In the meantime, Boraie Development is in the midst of planning a 25-story office building at Spring and Paterson streets in New Brunswick. It will be "the tallest and prettiest building in the town ... the signature piece of New Brunswick," Boraie said.


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