With its foundation in place and steel rising from the ground, the riverfront Newark property was all but begging to be developed while it languished for some three decades.
But when its current owners struck a deal to bring Panasonic to a new office tower on the site more than two years ago, completing the building on a tight schedule instantly became a top priority for Matrix Development Group and SJP Properties.
"It was critical … simply for their planning," said Jeffrey M. Schotz, executive vice president for leasing and marketing for Parsippany-based SJP. "Obviously as a tenant moving a company, you need to have a plan in place that you can work with. Otherwise, to change that plan — you can imagine how disruptive that would be to a company."
With construction progressing quickly and on schedule, the 12-story, state-of-the art project was on display this week during a tour hosted by executives from the development group. Panasonic employees will start to move in July 19, as the electronics giant shifts its North American headquarters from Secaucus to the 340,000-square-foot facility.
City officials and business leaders gathered Wednesday at the project site at McCarter Highway and Raymond Boulevard, as Doug Allen, SJP's executive vice president for planning and preconstruction, detailed features geared toward energy efficiency and a better work environment. Among them are systems to improve indoor air quality, which is "paramount," he said, noting that "people will be able to work longer hours at their desk with fresh air intake."
Allen also touted a floor-to-ceiling glass design that will light the building and embrace New Jersey's largest city: north-facing occupants on higher floors will look directly at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Those facing south will see McCarter Highway, Allen said, "so it's a very interesting view shed that we studied from the inside out and will play very strongly as Panasonic populates the building."
Allen also noted that the building, which sits next to the Newark Legal Center and steps from Newark Penn Station, is oriented on "a footprint of yesteryear." The site had been slated for development going back to the 1970s by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and previous developers, and it already had an underground parking facility when Matrix Development Group acquired the land in 2003.
"We were already up to ground level, with steel sticking out of it," said Joseph S. Taylor, Matrix president and CEO. "And when we found Panasonic, together with Steve (Pozycki's) team, we found a way to work with the structure that was already in this place, even though it was a different shape from the one that was originally conceived."
Matrix, based in Cranbury, also owns five nearby acres that will serve as parking for Panasonic, but could someday house new office or residential development, Taylor said. Such a project would complete the company's presence along the Passaic River, which also includes the 20-story Legal Center.
Panasonic was lured to Newark with the help of $102.4 million Urban Transit Hub tax credit from the state. The company will occupy 10 of the building's 12 floors.
That means SJP Properties is looking to lease nearly 60,000 square feet of space. But Schotz, the company's top leasing executive, said he was confident "that most of the activity that we're going to see for the remaining two floors is going to come once the building is completed."