A proposal by D4 Properties LLC calls for building a 272,000-square-foot warehouse at 30 Union Ave. in the Haskell section of Wanaque, known as The Depo, capitalizing on a location just off Interstate 287 and minutes from Route 23. — Courtesy: D4 Properties
By Joshua Burd
A family-owned firm is hoping to bring modern warehouse space to a lesser-known swath of Passaic County, starting with a 272,000-square-foot facility just off Interstate 287.
The developer, D4 Properties LLC, could break ground as soon as this fall after recently securing site plan approval from Wanaque, the host community, for the project at 30 Union Ave. in the borough’s Haskell section. In the process, it would create a distinctive setting for an industrial building within the state’s Highlands Region, a stretch of more than 800,000 acres of mountainous terrain that is largely protected from new development.
D4 Managing Member Nick DePaolera said the firm was marketing the project as a build-to-suit and has generated feedback that, so far, has validated the location.
For one thing, it’s exceedingly rare to find a large industrial space or development tract in the Highlands. That has piqued the interest of would-be tenants in a state whose warehouse market is already vastly undersupplied. What’s more, the project known as The Depo would be seconds from Exit 55 of I-287 and minutes from Route 23, the most direct artery to consumers in northwestern New Jersey — and midway between Boston and Washington D.C.
“We’ve had a few groups that are looking to distribute to those major cities in addition to New York City,” said DePaolera, who is also a Parsippany-based broker with NAI James E. Hanson. “And the benefit of this (location) is you’re able to access and deliver to three major cities without being caught in that major traffic and congestion in the Meadowlands.”
His family is intimately familiar with the area. DePaolera’s father, Gary DePaolera Sr., founded what is now KMC Mechanical Inc. in 1980, while he and wife Pamela Bronander created Kaye Mechanical Contractors LLC in 2007. The latter spent more than two decades working with her family’s business, Scandia Packaging Machinery Co. in Clifton, before joining her husband full-time in 2000, along with 25 years as a director at Wayne-based Valley National Bancorp starting in 1995.
The younger DePaolera, who grew up in nearby Kinnelon, said his parents formed D4 Properties in 2017 in connection with a three-story, mixed-use project in neighboring Bloomingdale, which redeveloped the site of a rundown two-family house into eight apartments and ground-floor commercial space. The street-level section is home to the family’s four businesses, including KMC and Kaye Mechanical, which offer commercial HVAC, fire sprinkler, plumbing and process piping services, along with the development firm.
Two of their children, Matt and Gary DePaolera Jr., joined the family business as mechanics and field supervisors, while Nick joined Transwestern in 2014 as a project manager and site supervisor, before moving to NAI Hanson two years later. Their sister, Jilliana DePaolera Aboyoun, joined D4 upon its founding, in a part-time role focused on interior design and aesthetics.
It was in his role as a broker that Nick DePaolera was canvassing in late 2019, when he came across the parcel at Union and Greenwood avenues. He noted that the industrial market was already booming at that time, but developers and tenants were still less likely to consider tertiary markets than they are now. Nonetheless, he found a prospective buyer for the property and went under contract, only to have the deal scuttled by the COVID-19 crisis.
DePaolera and his family began to discuss the deal internally, he said, believing it could be some time before the pandemic subsided. That made them comfortable with taking on the project themselves and embarking on as much as two years of due diligence and entitlements.
“Once we felt comfortable (with) those aspects, we said let’s roll the dice,” he said.
As a broker, DePaolera had the benefit of picking the brains of developers and getting their perspective on the site. And he could do so without necessarily competing against them, given its location and other unknowns at the time.
That left D4 in a position to proceed, which would require solving for access to the site, navigating a challenging topography, determining the project size and selling the plan to borough officials and residents. It has largely addressed those needs in the two years since, although it still requires county and state entitlements. The firm was slated to appear before Passaic County in June, while also engaging in a review with the state Department of Environmental Protection that could take an estimated four to six months.
“With all the work that has gone into it with our team, that definitely contributed to the idea that this is really a viable site and it does make sense because of such a lack of opportunity in this immediate marketplace,” DePaolera said. With an estimated completion date of mid-2024, its plans call for a cross-docked facility with 40-foot clear ceiling heights, 82 loading docks and parking for 144 cars and 37 trailers.
The site is around 10 miles north of Route 46 and the nearby Fairfield submarket, a well-known hub for flex and warehouse users, but one that’s marked by smaller and midsized buildings. That has enhanced the appeal for prospective tenants in Haskell, some of which were initially skeptical but reconsidered when D4 launched a formal marketing campaign, allowing them to “see that you’re 10 seconds away from an interstate highway.”
The developer has also grappled with a terrain that is atypical and less than ideal for a warehouse, but has managed to embrace it in its design. With a team that also includes KSS Architects, Stonefield Engineering, Michael Fitzpatrick & Sons and DMC Associates, the project calls for a series of dramatic tiers that DePaolera said “(uses) the unique topography to make artistic interest, while at the same time providing a functional Class A warehouse.”
Aside from the remaining county and state approvals, D4 plans to seek a payment in lieu of taxes agreement for the site, DePaolera said, adding that he believes the family’s local roots and its approach with the community to date have put the project on solid footing.
“We’re very familiar with the area and that, I think, has been well-received by the town,” he said. “I think they appreciate the idea that we’re cognizant of neighboring residents and they respect the fact that we listen and try to implement as many concerns that are reasonable as we possibly can to provide a design and development that is well-received.”