Creatively Putting Properties Back to Use in New Jersey
08 Jul, 2015
By Rachel Duran
NJ BAC encourages imaginative repurposing of vacant/underutilized corporate campuses.
The former Bell Labs site in Holmdel, New Jersey, is a perfect example of the success unfolding through the state’s corporate campus redevelopment initiative. The initiative follows a customized and multiuse approach model with the goal of repurposing 60 vacant and/or underutilized campuses located throughout the state.
Many of the available sites are the result of the contracting worldwide biopharmaceutical industry. The realignment of the industry has created an inventory of available sites and properties in New Jersey, a state which ranks No. 3 in the country for the presence of biopharma and related industries.
The corporate campus redevelopment initiative is run through the New Jersey Business Action Center (NJ BAC), which acts as a facilitator to engage with local municipalities and counties, and the owners of vacant/underutilized properties. “We share with local governments the possibilities and opportunities,” says Lauren Moore, executive director, NJ BAC. “We want to encourage and facilitate the conversation.” Because New Jersey is a home rule state, the Business Action Center doesn’t have direct jurisdiction in any of these projects. Zoning and land-use decisions are made at the local levels.
The NJ BAC’s Planning Advocacy Unit ensures each project is structured and coordinated, where companies are made aware of the programs, resources and incentives available to support the redevelopments; and local leaders are encouraged to think creatively in regard to alternate uses for these facilities and sites.
The impetus for the state’s redevelopment initiative was the result of the reshaping of the global biopharma industry, which continues to contract as companies reshape their firms.
The NJ BAC is the leading entity in the state that interfaces with the business community, supporting job creation and retention.
The Holmdel site, now called Bell Works, is an example of mixed-use redevelopment in an historic location. The innovation and technology created over the years at the Bell Labs location called for building preservation efforts. The innovations include the creation of the binary digital computer and the transistor; the first trans-Atlantic telephone cable connecting Europe and the United States, the first orbiting communications satellite, and the unix operating system, to name a few.
The plans for the Bell Works redevelopment call for hundreds of thousands of square feet for office and administrative space, an extended stay hotel, ground-level retail space, and a town center with single-family homes.
“The approach to this development was not a single-use project like Bayer HealthCare was for its U.S. headquarters,” Moore says. Bayer selected the former Alcatel-Lucent Technologies property in Hanover for its new 675,000-square-foot operation. The site is also the planned location for the global headquarters of MetLife Investments, which held a groundbreaking ceremony in April.
The former Sanofi-Aventis site in Bridgewater highlights yet another example of the need for customization and flexibility in the redevelopment of corporate campuses in New Jersey. The Bridgewater site features 1.3 million square feet of property, spread across 13 different buildings, which once supported research activities.
Working with one organization brings clarity and predictability to redevelopment opportunities.
“The company still has its headquarters next door,” Moore says. “The company conducted R&D, clinical trials and pilot manufacturing.” Advance Reality bought the property from Sanofi and hired JLL to sublet the properties. Moore says this model allows smaller companies to access the available R&D space and labs. It also supports companies that want to experiment with pilot manufacturing, and those that want to headquarter in small administrative spaces.
The impetus for the state’s redevelopment initiative was the result of the reshaping of the global biopharma industry, which continues to contract as companies reshape their firms. “The industry is a huge part of our economy,” Moore says. “When the industry started to reshape itself, we felt it.”
The Planning Advocacy Unit at the NJ BAC works to coordinate the interaction of local government officials and property owners (life sciences and biopharma companies). Officials created a “one-stop shop” for corporate property owners to work with during the redevelopment process, eliminating the need to work with several individual governmental agencies to get things done. The interagency governmental team handles many issues, such as ensuring permits and approvals are in place when a development crosses jurisdictional lines, for example.
The governmental team consists of officials from the state’s departments of transportation, environmental protection, and community affairs, as well as local municipalities and county development groups.
“Each opportunity to redevelop a campus has its own facts specific to that site,” Moore says. Working with one organization brings clarity and predictability to redevelopment opportunities.
These projects also benefit from the NJ BAC’s involvement with the state’s Partnership for Action, which consists of four organizations, three of which are part of state government. Partners include the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, Choose New Jersey, and the Office of Higher Education.
For complete details on the corporate campus redevelopment program, visit the New Jersey Business Action Center at www.nj.gov/njbusiness.