51 John F. Kennedy Parkway in the Short Hills section of Millburn — Courtesy: The Birch Group
By Joshua Burd
Mack-Cali Realty Corp. has sold four office buildings in Short Hills for $255 million, in a deal that marks another addition to the buyer’s fast-growing portfolio in New Jersey.
The properties, which were acquired by The Birch Group, total 843,300 square feet of high-end corporate space at 51, 101, 103 and 150 John F. Kennedy Parkway. Mack-Cali announced the deal on Tuesday afternoon, continuing its long-running effort to shrink its once-sprawling office portfolio and reshape its business.
“This transaction represents yet another significant step towards simplifying our company through the disposition of suburban office properties while generating liquidity to pay down corporate debt and strengthen our balance sheet,” said Mahbod Nia, CEO of the Jersey City-based real estate investment trust. “I would like to thank the team for their hard work and commitment to closing this complex transaction expeditiously.”
Cushman & Wakefield’s New Jersey-based capital markets team brokered the transaction to The Birch Group, a privately held investment firm based in New York. With the acquisition, the company said it has now acquired more than $750 million of commercial office assets since 2019.
The deal comes only a month after Birch’s $77 million purchase of a three-building portfolio in the Morristown submarket.
“This portfolio offers a unique opportunity to reposition historically high-performing properties back to best-in-class assets, which is a hallmark of The Birch Group’s strategy,” said Mark Meisner, the firm’s CEO and founder. “Short Hills is known for its incomparable prestige that manifests in heightened expectations among the regional tenant base. A one-size-fits-all approach to asset management doesn’t work in this submarket, and our focus will be on enacting tailored improvement strategies to create enduring value for our tenants and investors alike.”
The Birch Group has retained Cushman & Wakefield as its leasing agent for the portfolio, which is 80 percent leased overall to tenants such as Investors Bank, Citibank, KPMG and others. In a separate announcement, the firm said it “targeted the portfolio as a unique repositioning opportunity,” citing its location directly off Route 24, its connectivity to the major highways and the skilled executive labor base in Short Hills.
The new owner will launch value-add improvements to complement $15.2 million of recent renovations by Mack-Cali, in addition to a newly constructed parking deck at 150 JFK Parkway, according to a news release. The Birch Group has tapped Gensler to lead the design enhancements.
The buildings, located across from the Mall at Short Hills, are surrounded by other retail, recreation and hospitality offerings, along with Roseland Residential Trust’s newly completed residential project known as The Upton.
“This is the first time in history these four premier buildings — which have a longstanding reputation for attracting nationally recognized blue chip tenants — will trade as a cohesive portfolio,” C&W’s David Bernhaut said. “This is a fantastic acquisition for The Birch Group, which has been one of the most active buyers across the tristate region, and we are thrilled to once again execute on a milestone transaction for Mack-Cali.”
Bernhaut led the assignment alongside Andy Merin, Gary Gabriel, Frank DiTommaso and Seth Zuidema, in conjunction with Adam Spies and Kevin Donner. The team was supported by Cushman & Wakefield’s equity, debt and structured finance team of John Alascio, Alex Hernandez, Chuck Kohaut and TJ Sullivan.
In announcing the deal, Mack-Cali said the transaction releases roughly $100 million of net proceeds, after retirement of financing and transaction costs, which is expected to be used to pay down the company’s unsecured corporate debt during the second quarter of 2021.
“The Short Hills disposition continues our strong sales momentum in the suburban office market and reinforces our ability to achieve our goals at a solid pace without sacrificing value,” said Ricardo Cardoso, executive vice president and chief investment officer of Mack-Cali. “While we have reached a significant milestone in our sales process, we continue to work diligently to finalize terms on our remaining noncore commercial assets.”