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Beyond blueprints

Redevelopment of obsolete sites is the first step toward a wider reuse plan for stale office parks

By - Last modified: August 19, 2013 at 3:44 PM

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From left, Sam Morreale, co-founder and managing partner of Vision Equities and Ross Chomik, director of Vision Equities and executive vice president of Vision Real Estate Partners. The two are pictured in front of the former Alcatel-Lucent complex in Whippany, which they are redeveloping for Bayer.
From left, Sam Morreale, co-founder and managing partner of Vision Equities and Ross Chomik, director of Vision Equities and executive vice president of Vision Real Estate Partners. The two are pictured in front of the former Alcatel-Lucent complex in Whippany, which they are redeveloping for Bayer. - (AARON HOUSTON)

Bayer HealthCare's new East Coast headquarters is all but complete, but for the developer of the Hanover facility, it's only the start of a plan to revitalize the 200-acre campus vacated by Alcatel-Lucent.

The developer, Vision Equities, is pushing ahead with other phases of the project after reconstructing two obsolete buildings to deliver Bayer's 700,000-square-foot offices. The Mountain Lakes-based firm is now in planning for several other components, including multifamily residential, hospitality and retail.

"Certainly this project wants to be completed now that you have a major user on campus, and the other users want to mix in with that," said Sam Morreale, managing partner and chief investment officer for Vision. "And we certainly want to bring it to completion and not have any extended development timeline."

Bayer's new headquarters is not the only adaptive reuse project that could spur new commercial activity in the surrounding area.

In the Iselin section of Woodbridge, Hampshire Cos. is looking forward to the next stage of a 19-acre development around a former Siemens Corp. building, which it acquired in 2009 and stripped to its steel frame.

"We wanted to be very specific and anchor the development with the right building … to use as a springboard for the rest of the acreage on the site," said Todd Anderson, executive vice president with the Morristown-based developer. To do that, Hampshire redeveloped and expanded the property into an 110,000-square-foot building, now known as Centra Metropark.

The new building opened in 2011, and while the space is still about 70 percent vacant, Anderson said the firm was in discussions with three new tenants, and that overall interest has picked up. The improved market conditions have led the developer to now move "down the path with a more formal strategic plan" for the remainder of the site.

The adaptive reuse of an existing building also bodes well for a section of Bloomfield, though the project doesn't involve office space. Prism Capital, which is based in the township, is transforming the six-story, 115-year-old General Electric warehouse along the Garden State Parkway into a 365-unit multifamily building.

The so-called Parkway Lofts will start marketing units this fall, but the $90 million project "clearly has helped" the nearby downtown area, said Glenn Domenick, Bloomfield's director of community development.

"From a quantifiable perspective it's a little early to tell," he said. "What I've seen is an uptick in people actually coming back to that area to try and purchase property in advance of this project opening."

The nearby Watsessing neighborhood has been "in a quasi-state of blight" as industry has left the township, Domenick said.

But even the demolition of several abandoned properties nearby, which Prism undertook as part of the redevelopment, had a positive effect, he said.

"That alone, from an aesthetic perspective — it began to clean up the site and people began to see it," he said.

"It draws so much attention, and with its proximity to the Parkway, it's so visible. I get calls from all over the country about it."

E-mail to: joshb@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @joshburdnj

Joshua Burd

Joshua Burd

Josh Burd covers real estate, economic development and sports and entertainment. Before joining NJBIZ in 2011, he spent four years as a metro reporter in Central Jersey. His email is joshb@njbiz.com and he is @JoshBurdNJ on Twitter.

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