Signature Place in Morris Plains — All photos by Peter Dant Photography/Courtesy: Beckerman
By Joshua Burd
The former site of an outdated, long-vacant office building in Morris Plains has been reborn as luxury apartments and is now on a path to “a much longer and better livelihood.”
At least, that’s how Andrew Marshall described it on Thursday as he welcomed local officials and the development team to the property at 250 Johnson Road.
“This is an achievement beyond just one of our ground-up developments,” said Marshall, president and executive vice president of development at Roseland Residential Trust. “This is a repurposing of a former site with a nonperforming office building that hadn’t been in good stead, nor a good member of the community, for a number of years.
“So with the help of the town, we rezoned it and repurposed this land to a better use.”
Known as Signature Place, the 197-unit project is a milestone for Roseland and its parent company, Mack-Cali Realty Corp., which hopes to replicate the formula in other high-end suburban submarkets. For instance, Marshall said the firm has secured approvals to tear down an office building in Short Hills and rebuild the property as apartments and a hotel.
The developer is also seeking similar entitlements in Roseland and other areas that are home to Mack-Cali office buildings that are obsolete but still have strong locations. It’s doing so while navigating a process that can sometimes be a tough sell for local officials and residents.
“We’ve got a few other places where we’re still in early talks with the municipalities, because zoning is obviously a hot button for most mayors to have to handle, as far as converting from one use to another, especially residential,” Marshall said.
All photos by Peter Dant Photography/Courtesy: Beckerman
But Roseland and Mack-Cali can now point to a success story in Morris Plains, where it had a governing body that was largely receptive to the idea. Carl Goldberg, a former Roseland partner who served as a consultant to the project, said Mayor Frank Druetzler “was the person who had a vision” and understood that there was a better use for what had been a vacant 75,000-square-foot office building off Route 10.
That translated to a project that became a true public-private partnership and “something that’s positive for all of the stakeholders,” including the borough and the development team, he said.
“It’s easier to talk about, but more difficult to accomplish,” said Goldberg, founder and managing member of Canoe Brook Management.
Druetzler said an important factor was the borough’s familiarity with the Roseland team, which also includes Chairman Marshall Tycher. The firm worked in the town some 20 years ago to build the 116-unit property known as the Highlands at Morris Plains.
Its latest project, Signature Place, is off to a fast start with its upscale apartments and luxury amenities. The developer has leased about 20 percent of the market-rate units in only about three weeks.
Druetzler was confident that the demand will continue.
“It’s a different lifestyle for people,” he said. “And this is going to fit in Morris Plains. It is fitting already … and Mack-Cali, Carl and Marshall do quality work and you’ll see that in here. And it’s a pleasure working with them.”