Page 16 - RENJ_Combo_1120
P. 16

14 NOVEMBER 2020
 both the office and hotel components, while also complementing rather than competing with the surrounding downtowns of Berkeley Heights, Summit and other municipalities.
That means “restaurant concepts that benefit the work experience here” while serving as a destination, such as a duckpin bowling concept, a Southern California-style taco stand, a brewery and a beer garden with rooftop event space.
“Those are all concepts we’re creating with our culinary and hospitality team to then activate this place with all of these new and sort of urban uses,” Connell said, noting that The District will also feature a Main Street with about 30,000 square feet of additional retail.
“We’ll see if we can attract other people that then want to be part of this ecosystem,” he said. “But the goal is to really create some place different from an offering standpoint that attracts people to want to work here.”
The project still requires site plan approval from the township, but
Connell expects to start construction on both the residential and the dining and entertainment components early next year, with completion slated
for summer 2023. As those uses take shape, the firm will remain focused on ensuring that they are connected with the entire campus.
“We do that by the servicing, so whether you live here or work here, you get the same access to meal plans, same access to nutritionists (and) ... access to Eden Health,”
he said, referring to The Park’s on-site health care provider. “So we’re connecting all services to one ecosystem, but then also connecting it physically with really high-end, urban-type trails.”
There’s little doubt that Connell sees outdoor space as equally critical to The Park’s long-term success. The center of the campus already boasts an array of benches, a great lawn and a multilevel, concrete feature with stadium-style seating, all of which stemmed from a recent $4 million investment.
The area, known as The Grove,
connects to a newly expanded trail that will run through the campus. And it’s only the start of the developer’s plans outdoors. In the coming years, Connell will expand The Grove
with high-end playground areas, a 1950s-style burger joint, sport courts and a dog park, among other features.
“This is an in-campus approach that’s open to the community,” Connell said. “And so in order to get them to want to be here, you really have to build something that’s totally different and nice. That’s the commitment.”
The team has drawn inspiration from spaces such as the High Line and Hudson River Park in Manhattan, which “ties into feeling more urban, because you would see more people here, so you don’t feel like you’re
so isolated in the suburbs.” But Connell noted that The Park is just minutes from the popular Watchung Reservation, which draws walkers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts from miles away.
He believes The Park — with its added allure of restaurants, shopping and recreation — could ultimately become
an additional stop for those visitors.
“If we could actually connect — we’re only a quarter-mile away — and they would actually end here, we can be an extension of the reservation as well,” Connell said. “So from a resident standpoint, if you have access to
that huge property over there and this park here, it’s a totally different lifestyle.”
As for whether the pandemic has done anything to alter its plans, Connell noted that The Park “is a generational asset” that is almost completely debt- free, allowing the firm to proceed undeterred. Besides, he believes the crisis has only accelerated what was already a migration to the suburbs by younger workers, which should bode well for the company’s vision at the campus.
“Predictability is always good,
but disruption always creates opportunities,” he said. “I don’t know about working from home — whether it’s going to be a big rebellion or well- embraced. ... Some companies hate it, some companies like it, so I think there will be this hybrid.” RE
The new-look campus known as The Park will draw from a range of influences, from West Coast dining concepts to public
spaces inspired by Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood. But the Connell Real Estate & Development team said the campus will be interconnected by the firm’s focus on wellness, elevated cuisine and
social interaction. The company is building a team to that effect, as it looks to hire everything from a nutritionist to a concierge and events director.
“Our goal was to really get some
core talent at some elevated levels,” said Steve Kilroy, Connell’s senior vice president of hospitality and marketing, who joined the firm
in 2018. That has included last year’s hiring of Brian Bistrong, the property’s on-site executive chef, who has brought decades of fine dining experience alongside chefs such as Wolfgang Puck, David Bouley and
Gray Kunz.
The campus
team also
Ashley Davis,
its catering
director and
pastry chef,
who oversaw
the commissary kitchen for New York-based Dean & Deluca.
The group has since helped to reinvent 200 Connell Drive, which is now a showcase for The Park’s new services and a prelude to how Connell will improve its four other office buildings. Those services include higher-quality food options such as made-to-order bowls
and sandwiches, hot dishes and cold-pressed juices, along with
  Connell Real Estate & Development has transformed 200 Connell Drive in Berkeley Heights with a new jewel box façade and the addition of upscale dining options, an on-site clinic and a fitness center that’s akin to a New York City health club.
Steve Kilroy
Courtesy: Connell Real Estate & Development Co.

   14   15   16   17   18