The atrium of Latitude, with its grand staircase and its glorious full sky-view ceiling, connects the East and West buildings into one seamless entity while simultaneously connecting the building’s Great Lawn in front with its urban park out back.
“It’s the ‘Wow,’” said Sam Morreale, the founder and managing partner of Vision Real Estate Partners and the developer of the you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it office park in Parsippany.
But it may not even be the coolest part of the building.
That would be what the atrium connects: a bottom-floor, more-than-half-mile-long series of amenities, including a variety of food, entertainment and exercises options — indoor pickleball, anyone? — all tied together by open-sided huddle rooms representing locations from East to West.
From elevator doors that look like subway doors (New York) to a ski lodge (Denver) to a movie-theater setup, complete with popcorn (Los Angeles), the thematic effort can’t be missed. It’s by design, Morreale said.
But it’s the functionality of it all that takes it from novelty to necessity.
There are touchdown rooms where employees can meet internally or bring in clients — each is Wi-Fi enabled with large screens that can be easily accessed. They can be work or social spaces, Morreale noted.
There are two cafeteria options and a juice bar.
And there is gym space — which includes an indoor track, turf for a personal training session, a Peloton room and golf simulator — that can be used before and after work, or during the workday, as needed, Morreale said.
Latitude, which was created before the pandemic, appears prescient in that it has the type of amenities that conceivably will draw workers back to the office post-pandemic.
It certainly is drawing tenants. So far, nearly 600,000 square feet of the 700,000 square feet of office space has been leased or is in final negotiations. Morreale, who began assembling the property in 2018, is cautiously optimistic the rest will be leased soon, as companies look to lock down their space for 2023.
Regardless, he’s confident that Latitude — with its overwhelming number of unique Class A amenities — has what it takes to be a workplace of the future.
“We want to have great experiential space, we want to give great customer service and we want an environment that is clean and healthy, especially in today’s world,” he said. “That was our mantra before COVID, but people are really reacting to it now.”
Morreale recently spoke with ROI-NJ about the 35-acre property and the state of office real estate. Here’s a look at more of the conversation, edited for space, flow and clarity.
ROI-NJ: Let’s start pre-pandemic. You acquired both of the main buildings of what was known then as the Morris Corporate Center IV East and West in early 2018. They weren’t even half-leased at the time. Talk about your vision.
Sam Morreale: There was partial occupancy on the East side while the West side was 100% vacant. The plan was to acquire both properties — they were not sold at the same time — and then really elevate the campus, create something special — really amenitize the asset much differently than it had been or like anyone had ever done before.
We started by literally putting it together as one big asset. The atrium creates a little bit of a Broad and Main Street-type intersection that traverses both east and west. The atrium is a place where you can direct guests — and then go east or west for a meeting or a food opportunity. Or you can stay there.
And the atrium itself can serve as a town hall environment. You can put a speaker at the bottom and can speak up to everybody on the stairs, because the stairs have padded seat areas off to the sides. If you have an event, you can speak to people and then have a meet-and-greet with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails.
ROI: Talk more about the amenities, especially the exercise opportunities.
SM: This isn’t just having some empty space in the basement of a building and putting in a couple of treadmills. We have the Astroturf, we have the running track, we have the area for private classes if someone wanted to have a trainer come in there, we have a whole Peloton room with multimedia, we have a golf simulator.
And we have a pickleball court in our multipurpose room. It’s the fastest-growing sport in the country. But the room could be used for street hockey or dodgeball or anything else.
ROI: Let’s move outside; how do those amenities work into the campus?
SM: We wanted to bring the inside to the outside with one overall space. We redid everything in the front, creating the Great Lawn as another great amenities option. It’s been used for company picnics, where tenants have been brought in slides and carnival activities for family gatherings. And we’ve brought in food trucks or ice cream trucks in the summer.
The other side is more of an urban park, where it’s more hardscape as opposed to just the green lawn. There are walking trails around all of it, but we also created a broad boulevard with outdoor seating that traverses both of the buildings. It can be used for events. We had a very big cocktail party when one of the tenants moved in.
Now, the back of the building adds connectivity to the front of the building. We have embraced the ponds with fountains that light up and dance around. It’s an interactive space.
ROI: What it isn’t, is near an urban center or even a train station. Talk about how you have embraced the suburban office space and why you think it can not only survive but thrive moving forward.
SM: We think we’re well-positioned with interstates 287 and 80. There are only so many four-way Interstate interchanges in New Jersey.
We think the suburbs are alive and well, and Parsippany is the largest suburban market in New Jersey. We think the proof of that statement is that our existing tenants are staying here and going long on their commitments to space. What’s really refreshing is out-of-state tenants are coming in and seeking assets like this, too.
There’s vibrancy here. We have Whole Foods and Shake Shack nearby. There are plenty of other food and restaurants, too, and there’s a plethora of hotels in the area for corporate travel. So, we feel pretty well-positioned in Morris County at a key intersection location. Now, it’s about making the asset unique relative to its competition, and really proving out the value proposition.
ROI: Let’s talk tenants. Reckitt Benckiser, Skanska, BB&T/Truist, Melinta Therapeutics, Sax LLP and, soon, Gilead Sciences are all here. Some are of enormous size. Others are single floor or smaller. What is the ideal size?
SM: There isn’t an ideal size. I think the beauty of Latitude is that there are four different regions here. So, the extreme East is a single tenant, the entire building with Reckitt. On the extreme West, you have half the building with Gilead. In the other pods, you have multitenancy. So, we are able to serve as the market. We’re not going to get down to 2,500 square feet, because a tenant is just going to get lost. But we can get down to a 10,000-square-foot tenant all day long.
ROI: Last question. Getting tenants. Leasing is good — even in a time when office is in transition. You’ve been in this game for decades; what is your take on office moving forward?
SM: I think it’s still all a work in process. I don’t think there’s any automatic answer right now. I think it’s about being nimble as the employer and being nimble as the developer.
We really want to be an extension of the tenant’s company through the real estate by listening to really what their needs are. Part of that obviously is the flexible design and creating these external conference rooms that really allow a tenant to have more usable space within their space.
We’re delivering a product that gives employees the ability to get up from their desk, go out within the complex in an under-cover, climate-controlled environment. They still get work done, but they can do while getting a cup of coffee or going to the juice bar. Or, maybe they just want to hit some golf balls to blow off steam after a tough meeting. We feel we’re giving them the whole package.
Reach Vision Real Estate Partners at: visionrep.com or call 973-299-4000.