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Former Merck building in Union could find new life as multitenant space

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The lobby of 1095 Morris Ave., Union.
The lobby of 1095 Morris Ave., Union. - ()

For all the talk in the office market about being near mass transit and higher education hubs, brokers with Colliers International feel there's a story in central New Jersey that hasn't been told.

It’s in Union, they say, at a newly upgraded, 150,000-square-foot property at 1095 Morris Ave. The building, a former Merck & Co. office space, sits across the street from Kean University and less than a half-mile from an NJ Transit rail station.

“We convinced the landlord to look at this asset in a different way than they’ve been looking at it thus far,” said Richard Mirliss, an executive managing director for Colliers in New Jersey. “And I think we’re doing a good job of repositioning the asset in the marketplace and bringing a lot of attention to it that it certainly has not seen thus far.”

The landlord, Lamar Cos., acquired the four-story building from Merck more than two years ago and recently installed Colliers International as its broker. The team — which includes Mirliss and associates Alex Vitro and Jack Callahan — says the newly branded Union Station Corporate Center can accommodate needs ranging from 3,000 square feet to the full building.

And they are marketing a property that has undergone $2.5 million in upgrades to its lobby and common areas.

“I think it gives off the right vibe when you look at the building, because it used to be sort of a corporate single-tenant building for Merck,” Mirliss said. “So we’re trying to change the mindset in the marketplace that it is really a multitenant asset.”

Part of that strategy involves a “very aggressive pricing program” so that the building’s earliest tenants “are getting amazing deals for a Class A building, relative to its peers in the marketplace.” Colliers has advertised asking rents of $16 per square foot to start, which Mirliss said is some $7 to $10 below market value for a comparable asset.

Adding to the value, he said, is that the building is a candidate for transit-oriented development incentives under the state’s Grow New Jersey tax credit program.

Colliers is touting that mass transit access along with the building’s proximity to Kean University. Mirliss said “the synergies that the university plays are meaningful, and I don’t think they were necessarily being exploited or advertised in the right manner.”

“These days, people are looking for educated workforces who have a college-oriented environment around them, and I think the university has that and can offer that,” he said. “There are certain programs that the university does in the life sciences arena, for instance, that are attractive to the biotech pharma community that exists in New Jersey, and we’re starting to see some traction from these types of tenants because that environment exists across the street.”

Mirliss’ team to date is having discussions with potential tenants ranging from 3,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet, from life sciences and engineering to law and financial services. And the brokers are eyeing a layout that would call for keeping the first floor as a multitenant setting while preserving the top floors for either half- or full-floor users.

Meantime, the landlord is planning additional upgrades such as a cafeteria and fitness center with men’s and women’s locker rooms. Mirliss said completion of that work would coincide with the first set of tenants moving in.

“I think creating a multitenant environment for this type of building probably makes sense moving forward,” Mirliss said. “So we’re looking at the demand that we’re getting right now and reacting accordingly, but we do have a plan in place.”

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