This file photo from fall 2016 shows the demolition of 500,000-square-foot office building in Cranbury, which The Sudler Cos. has redeveloped as two new distribution facilities. — Courtesy: The Sudler Cos.
No matter how much I write about commercial real estate, it’s never enough for me to fully appreciate the connection between a developer and one of his or her buildings.
That said, Peter Sudler summed it up well enough earlier this year, when he spoke about demolishing a vacant, antiquated office building to make way for a new industrial development.
“As much as it killed me to have to take down a 500,000-square-foot office building in Cranbury, I’m really glad I did it,” said Sudler, CEO and president of The Sudler Cos. “I would do it again.”
It reminded me that there’s nothing easy about tearing down a building that had been a useful, productive asset for his company for multiple decades — even if it was obvious that the property has outlived its useful life. Not to mention that sentimentality is probably the easiest thing for a developer to overcome, compared to the cost of such a project and the need to convince local officials that the building needs to go.
We highlight those difficulties in this month’s cover story, “Higher and Better,” as we check in on New Jersey’s notoriously aging office market. As you’ll read in the story, developers are making strides in repurposing some of these antiquated buildings and removing them from the inventory, enough to make a dent in the vacancy numbers that we see in quarterly market reports.
Don’t get me wrong — it’s a small dent. But we have to start somewhere and we certainly are, thanks to developers like Sudler, Mack-Cali Realty Corp. and Onyx Equities. Just last month, Mack-Cali opened a new 197-unit rental community at the site of a former office building in Morris Plains, which was good news for the developer and for the borough’s affordable housing obligations.
Speaking of affordable housing, our latest issue also features an update on one of New Jersey’s longest-running policy battles. Even with a recent high-profile ruling in Mercer County — which found Princeton and West Windsor were drastically undercounting their obligations — stakeholders say the process is still filled with uncertainty. A host of questions remain, from whether litigation will continue to how developers will finance the projects in the face of increasing competition.
We bring you those stories alongside other features in our May issue. On page 26, we detail a high-profile office project in Camden, whose developers are building the tower with an eye toward driverless vehicles and carpooling. Specifically, they have built a parking structure with two levels that can be converted to additional office space, in the event that the need for on-site parking declines in the years to come. Perhaps it’s a sign of things to come.
It’s hard to believe that it’s already May, but that’s what happens when you have a busy market. It seems like there is more to come before summer, so I’m looking forward to another month and to seeing everyone on the event circuit this spring. We’ll be here to cover it all every month in Real Estate NJ and every day in The Briefing and on RE-NJ.com.
Thank you for reading, and please don’t hesitate to reach out with your questions, feedback and story ideas. Enjoy the issue!