Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Making over a Real Estate Empire

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Making over a Real Estate Empire

Article excerpt

Forty years ago, Hartz Mountain Industries Inc. began transforming the marshes and pig farms in the Meadowlands into a sprawling office and warehouse complex, taking advantage of an economic boom and worries about the future of New York City.

By the turn of the century, it had expanded its holdings deeper into Hudson and Bergen counties -- at one point owning some 10 million square feet of office space.

Over the last seven years, it has again been transforming the landscape, as corporations have downsized and New Jersey struggled after the recession. Building by building, Hartz has been selling off and reducing its aging office stock to what will soon be 30 percent of its former size.

It has been replaced by multifamily residential, retail, restaurants and hotels -- what experts say North Jersey needs to remain a prime place to live and work.

The developer has reduced its office space holdings to about 4 million square feet, according to Hartz Managing Director Gus Milano. He expects that to get down to 3 million square feet.

Citing Hartz's current plans at a business conference at the Hilton Hasbrouck Heights on Tuesday, Milano said the company will demolish both of Panasonic's former office buildings, totaling 417,000 square feet, at Harmon Cove in Secaucus, and hopes to attract data centers to the sites. The consumer electronics firm has relocated to Newark.

"What we're seeing basically is a really smart development organization, Hartz and Mack-Cali and others, really responding to market conditions," said Gil Medina, executive vice president at CBRE Inc. in Saddle Brook, in an interview after the conference. "When the demand for certain types of assets in certain places begins to diminish, responsive companies will find ways to redeploy their assets and their capital."

Milano and James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, both offered their 2014 commercial real estate outlooks at the breakfast meeting of the Commerce & Industry Association of New Jersey.

Because of job losses in North Jersey, young employees' desire to work in urban centers, and corporations downsizing, smart commercial landlords need to re-imagine their suburban office space, Hughes told about 85 people in Hasbrouck Heights. …

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