HANOVER, N.J., Sept. 6, 2017 – Vision Real Estate Partners and Rubenstein Partners this summer accepted the New Jersey Business and Industry Association’s (NJBIA’s) New Good Neighbor Award, recognizing their leadership in the development of MetLife Investment’s 185,000-square-foot, build-to-suit Global Headquarters at 67 Whippany Road in Hanover Township. That project represented one of New Jersey’s largest 2015 office leases and one of the state’s most notable 2016 construction completions. And, perhaps most importantly, it marks the culmination of a suburban New Jersey redevelopment success story dating back to 2010.
Bell Laboratories operated at the 194-acre 67 Whippany Road campus from the 1920s through 2009, when Alcatel-Lucent relocated 2,100 employees to its North American headquarters in Murray Hill. The following year, the Vision Real Estate Partners/Rubenstein Partners venture purchased the property – which included 15 vacant office, laboratory and support buildings totaling 1.4 million square feet – with the goal to redevelop it as modern product reflecting its highest and best use.
“From the outset, we recognized the opportunity to master plan and spearhead a redevelopment that would carry significant economic impact,” noted Vision Real Estate Partners’ Sam Morreale, founder and managing partner. “We knew 67 Whippany had the potential to serve as a benchmark in New Jersey’s drive to improve underutilized, infill office real estate to institutional grade.”
In 2012, the partnership constructed Bayer Healthcare’s 675,000-square-foot East Coast Headquarters to anchor the property. That transaction involved the pharmaceutical giant purchasing 94 acres of the site. Then, following MetLife’s long-term lease commitment in early 2015, Vision Real Estate Partners and Rubenstein Partners designed, executed approvals for and developed the insurance giant’s world-class building on 14 acres.
Both facilities feature highly amenitized, collaborative workspaces that emphasize sustainability. In fact, the Bayer facility earned LEED Gold for Core & Shell and Platinum for Interiors, while MetLife achieved LEED Gold Core & Shell, and LEED Platinum Interiors designations. “Every inch of these buildings was crafted to meet new workforce standards,” Morreale said. “Both tenants set out to provide world-class, experiential workplace environments for regional employees – and both met and exceeded their expectations.”
In early 2016, Vision Real Estate Partners and Rubenstein Partners sold the remaining 86 acres of undeveloped land to Bayer for future expansion. And, last fall, the partnership sold the newly completed MetLife building to Salus Government Properties, marking the completion of 67 Whippany Road’s repositioning.
Morreale attributes the outcome of the overall redevelopment to the expertise, vision and cooperation of the many parties involved. Vision Real Estate Partners’ and Rubenstein Partners’ commitments to value creation and sustainability initiatives are unmatched. And the project’s exclusive broker, Cushman & Wakefield, did an exemplary job bringing the property’s joint venture partnership and tenants together.
From a state perspective, maintaining Bayer and MetLife – both global leaders in their industries – as tenants is highly significant, according to Morreale. “Their continued long-term commitments to New Jersey provide invaluable testaments to the state’s staying power as a preferred place to do business,” he said.
“Also consider the economic value of the project,” Morreale continued. “For years, the Alcatel-Lucent campus served as Whippany’s largest tax ratable. The MetLife and Bayer buildings, counting expansion potential, together total nearly 1.1 million square feet in approved corporate space. This effectively replaces the former 1.4 million square feet of obsolete Alcatel-Lucent offices. Additionally, these new tenants have brought nearly 3,500 employees to the site, with a daytime population that supports local retail, restaurant and service businesses.”
As part of the larger redevelopment, the Vision Real Estate Partners/Rubenstein Partners venture also completed a much-anticipated realignment of the Parsippany Road/Whippany Road intersection. The multi-million-dollar project significantly improved traffic flows along both heavily traveled local thoroughfares, and into and from the 67 Whippany Road campus.
“The entire theme of this project is consistent with New Jersey Smart Growth, modeling positive redevelopment strategy,” Morreale said. “We have validated the idea that if developer teams can acquire product at a basis that enables the investment required to redevelop in a first-class manner – working alongside first-class local partners, corporate tenants, and municipalities – they can successfully transform aging corporate inventory into flagship, next-generation assets centered on sustainability and quality of life.”
The New Good Neighbor Award recognizing the MetLife Investments Global Headquarters continues a long list of accolades for 67 Whippany and its tenants. NJBIA also honored the Bayer Headquarters with a New Good Neighbor Award in 2014, with other awards coming from NAIOP New Jersey, the Morris County Economic Development Corporation, United Way of Northern New Jersey and the U.S. Green Building Council of New Jersey.