Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

New Life for Old Office Parks

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

New Life for Old Office Parks

Article excerpt

NEW BRUNSWICK -- North Jersey's sadly outdated office and industrial buildings can be transformed into vibrant commercial space from vacant white elephants, according to several developers who have succeeded in such undertakings.

The redevelopment of the former Curtiss-Wright aircraft factory site in Wood-Ridge and the retrofitting of telecom giant Alcatel- Lucent's former campus in Whippany were cited as examples during a panel Tuesday night that was held by the commercial real estate group NAIOP New Jersey at New Brunswick's Heldrich hotel.

Isolated office parks

"Our industry is really charged with a pretty big mission here: to keep the economy going," said Samuel Morreale, managing partner for Vision Equities, which redeveloped the Alcatel-Lucent site for Bayer HealthCare. "Not every property is going to have this opportunity, but the industry as a whole can really see the unique opportunities that are out there."

The panel addressed the topic "Dinosaurs or Diamonds? Re- imagining New Jersey's Suburban Office Spaces," with James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, leading off the discussion.

Hughes explained how North Jersey's office inventory, mainly built in the 1980s, has been rendered outmoded by Internet technology and the disdain of so-called echo boomers -- those in their 20s and early 30s -- who don't want to work in isolated suburban office campuses.

"How do we transform a sterile office park or campus into a more exciting, multifunctional, interactive sense of place?" Hughes asked the gathering's 115 attendees.

"Can it be crafted into ecologies that multiply innovation and creativity? ... Can we invent a portfolio of echo-boomer-friendly residential configurations?"

Panelist Thomas Michnewicz, vice president of Somerset Development, said his Lakewood-based firm has been involved in several commercial space repositionings, including the one at Curtiss-Wright's former campus. That mixed-use redevelopment, named Wesmont Station, is slated to have 1,200 residential units, a combination of rentals, town houses and some single-family homes, Michnewicz said.

The entire Curtiss-Wright site -- where airplane engines were once made at a factory that has been closed since the early 1980s -- had 150 acres, but initially not all the space was being used by Somerset's partner in the project. …

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