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Honeywell's 147-acre campus getting makeover after years of controversy

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- (NJBIZ file photo)

The Rockefeller Group and K. Hovnanian Homes will redevelop the 147-acre Honeywell International campus in Morris Township, the firms and the town announced Wednesday, setting the course for a site that had endured some two years of controversy amid the technology giant's plan to move its headquarters to nearby Morris Plains.

Serving as lead developer, Rockefeller said it submitted a general development plan to the township to redevelop the aging office park with 900,000 square feet of new office and lab space, 235 townhomes, a community center and open space. The company has reached an agreement to acquire a portion of the site planned for office, while Red Bank-based K. Hovnanian plans to acquire separate parcels for residential use.

The site is located at 101 Columbia Road and is bounded by Park Avenue and Madison Avenues to the east and west, and Columbia Road and Morris County Golf Club to the north and south.

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“We’re pleased to submit our general development plan, an important step in a long-term process to reimagine this hidden gem in Morris Township,” Clark Machemer, Rockefeller’s vice president of development in New Jersey, said in a prepared statement.  “What we have here is a significant opportunity to turn a private and underutilized asset into a sophisticated, centrally located mixed-use complex that will attract new companies to Morris Township, create employment opportunities, provide new residences and preserve open space.”

The deal is a step toward a resolution for a parcel that has seen its fair share of drama since Honeywell, a Fortune 100 company, announced plans in 2012 to relocate from its longtime in Morris Township to an adjacent township. The controversy was fueled by its decision to apply for a $40 million state incentive package, after having been awarded subsidies on two previous occasions when the programs were less lucrative.

The Morris Township site also became the subject of litigation from local residents as township officials were seeking zoning changes tied to the redevelopment plan.

On Wednesday, Rockefeller said the commercial component will include about 715,000 square feet of new office or laboratory space to be developed by Rockefeller and some 185,000 square feet of lab and office space being retained on the site by Honeywell. Some 15 acres will be preserved for open space.

In a separate statement, township officials applauded the deal and said they were pleased Honeywell would retain a presence on the site.

“We are pleased that this property will not be vacant and the new commercial and residential components will strengthen the township’s fiscal stability,” Mayor Bruce Sisler said. He later added that he expects residents to become involved in the analysis of the plan.

Public hearings on the project will begin later this year, township officials said.

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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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