The former Hoffman-La Roche campus in Nutley and Clifton. — Courtesy: Prism Capital Partners
By Joshua Burd
An affiliate of Prism Capital Partners has closed on its purchase of the former Hoffman-La Roche campus in Nutley and Clifton, clearing the way for the developer to recreate the 116-acre site with a mix of new commercial tenants, retailers and residential development.
The closing will allow Hackensack Meridian Health and Seton Hall University to move ahead with their plans to open a new medical school and relocate two existing programs to the site, Prism said Friday. Now that financial and development approvals from both municipalities are in place, the organizations will immediately begin work to convert two buildings on the property into educational facilities.
In the meantime, the Bloomfield-based developer said it was marketing three other existing office buildings totaling more than 700,000 square feet on the campus. The firm said it has already attracted several other “notable companies” and is now negotiating agreements with those users for additional leases on the site.
“Following two full years of comprehensive diligence and complex negotiations involving many stakeholders, the pieces are now in place to move this landmark campus into its next chapter as a preeminent commercial location,” Eugene Diaz, principal partner with Prism, said in a prepared statement. “With the cooperation of Roche, we already have secured an outstanding long-term anchor tenant and new-business magnet.”
Financial terms of the sale were not disclosed.
The site has been among the most high-profile vacant commercial properties in the state in recent years. Hoffman-LaRoche, the Swiss pharmecutical giant behind drugs such as Valium, announced in 2012 that it would vacate the campus after more than 80 years, sending shockwaves through a region that was already burdened by a glut of aging office space.
But the site was given a new lease on life in early 2015, when Hackensack and Seton Hall announced plans for the new medical school. This past summer, the organizations signed a lease at the property as Prism and Roche moved toward a closing.
In a news release Friday, Prism said it will spend the next 12 to 18 months working with local officials in Nutley and Clifton and a team of consultants to develop the Roche-Nutley-Clifton Campus master plan.
“We will focus on the longevity of the site as a foremost goal, assembling an appropriate mix of uses, such as the addition of supporting retail and residential, as a necessary means to attract additional best-in-class corporate and research users,” Diaz said. “We are confident that our repositioning ultimately will create a unique business location of uncompromised quality and distinction.”
Prism’s Edwin Cohen, principal partner, said the firm’s top priority is having a site that will produce a stable and increasing revenue stream for the municipalities, so it is seeking a mixed-use, multiuser environment that “ensures ongoing tax ratables and daytime support for local businesses.”
Prism also said its plans will advance the “new urbanist” philosophy that is taking hold across the state. New Jersey suburban municipalities are increasingly redesigning their downtowns and office campuses in order to improve their tax bases and tap into the demand for mixed-use living and work environments.
The firm has been successful with other large-scale projects nearby. In 2006, it purchased the four-building BroadAcres Office Park in Bloomfield and launched a capital improvement program that has driven new leasing at the campus. Today the 380,000-square-foot property serves as a flagship of the company’s office portfolio.
Prism’s Parkway Lofts project, also in Bloomfield, has transformed an obsolete, 100-year-old former General Electric industrial property into a high-end residential community. Its first phase opened in 2013, while the firm is now preparing for the second phase.
“Our team works here and lives here, and we drive on these roads every day,” Cohen said. “We are deeply committed to providing an exciting, attractive and profitable campus — and a master plan sensitive to potential concerns about traffic and quality of life for the larger community.”