A rendering of The District, a mixed-use project by Connell Real Estate & Development Co. that will include 328 apartments, retail and entertainment space. — Courtesy: The Connell Co.
By Joshua Burd
Local officials have approved the rezoning of The Connell Co.’s 185-acre business campus in Berkeley Heights, paving the way for new apartments, retail and entertainment venues alongside the property’s existing office and hospitality buildings.
The developer announced Tuesday that it received unanimous approval from the township council, which comes amid a $400 million overhaul of its flagship complex along Interstate 78. With the new zoning in place, Connell is set to begin construction this year on a pedestrian-focused, urban-style development called The District, with plans calling for more than 300 apartments and offerings such as duckpin bowling, a Southern California-style taco stand and a brewery and beer garden with rooftop event space.
The project would also add a dog park, athletic fields and an additional 30,000 square feet of retail space to what is now known as The Park.
“For decades, The Connell Company has been a proud, committed partner to Berkeley Heights,” said Shane Connell, executive vice president with The Connell Co. “With The Park, we’re doubling down on that commitment to the local community — and the regional workforce at large — with the introduction of publicly accessible parkland, a mixed-use residential and experiential retail district, and a host of unique hospitality-inspired amenities that promote wellness, fitness and the work-from-anywhere experience.”
Long known as Connell Corporate Park, the campus is the longtime home of five office buildings totaling 1.5 million square feet, with tenants including L’Oreal, Celgene Corp., and Samsung. The property also includes more recent additions such as a LifeTime Fitness and an Embassy Suites hotel, but the multigenerational landlord is now moving to reposition the site as a full-fledged mixed-use destination.
Among the newest offerings is a 40,000-square-foot co-working and flexible workspace facility, known as Round Table Studios, which Connell opened in partnership with CBRE’s Hana group. The firm is also modernizing each of its existing office buildings with a physical overhaul and the addition of upscale dining options, an on-site clinic and a high-end fitness center.
Connell has started to roll out the new features — starting at 200 Connell Drive — with health and safety protocols in place as workers return to their offices. The firm has taken steps such as implementing on-site and virtual health care, introducing spaces such as fully powered and online-enabled outdoor workstations and requiring appointments for the use of the 12,000-square-foot fitness center.
“While this year has been a challenging one for our families, friends and company, we didn’t let these challenges define our trajectory. Instead we focused on how to improve the world around us — starting right here at The Park,” said Steve Kilroy, Connell’s senior vice president of hospitality and marketing. “The Park is a community laser-focused on health, wellness and establishing a connected community — both within the campus and to the surrounding region.”
New York City-based designer David M. Sullivan is spearheading the overall repositioning project alongside Shane Connell, with Gensler serving as the architect of record for Round Table Studios and designer of the repositioning of 200 Connell Drive. Mancini Duffy is now serving as the architect of record for the ongoing transformation of the campus, which already benefits from miles of walking trails, stadium-style seating and benches for breakout sessions among its vast outdoor spaces.
Overall completion of The Park is slated for 2023.
“The Park has long been a staple of Berkeley Heights, and with the final adoption of its rezoning now unanimously approved, its transformation will add an array of high-quality residences, amenities, outdoor trails, restaurants and retail to our community,” Berkeley Heights Mayor Angie Devanney said. “We’ve worked hard to create synergies with the Connell team to create a place that will complement our local businesses, enabling our downtown to thrive while attracting new interest in Berkeley Heights.”