The Sudler Cos. has started work to take down a large office building in Cranbury, making way for a site that will be home to two new distribution facilities. — Courtesy: The Sudler Cos.
By Joshua Burd
One of the largest office buildings in Central Jersey is being torn down to make way for two state-of-the-art distribution centers just off the New Jersey Turnpike.
For the property’s owner, getting to this point has been understandably bittersweet.
“We were very unhappy to have to take down a 500,000-square-office building that served us well for over 25 years,” said Peter Sudler, CEO and president of the Sudler Cos. “But as my father said long ago — wisely — you can’t fight the market.
“And we’re not going to fight the market.”
The Chatham-based developer will officially turn the page on the property, at 280-286 Prospect Plains Road in Cranbury, during a ceremony slated for Wednesday morning. The demolition will make way for two speculatively built warehouses of 416,300 and 341,000 square feet, as Sudler seeks to tap into the unprecedented demand for modern, well-located industrial space in the state.
The buildings are expected to be complete by late 2017 or early 2018, offering 40-foot ceiling heights, cross-dock trailer parking and all of the other features sought by industrial tenants.
“The industrial market is very, very hot at the moment and I don’t anticipate a lot of problems leasing these new buildings,” Sudler said. “There’s not going to be anything that anybody needs that I’m not going to have, and I’m one mile from the Turnpike entrance.”
The project represents a second chance for a 70-acre property that housed prominent insurance companies some 20 years. The last of those firms was Aetna Inc., which vacated the space around 2008 and left Sudler with a large, vacant office building in the heart of the downturn.
The developer, who was watching the office market shift to urban, rail-served locations, found a new tenant in Lam Cloud, a technology company specializing in disaster recovery. But the firm left the space after about three years.
“At that point, I saw what was going on in the market,” Sudler said. “I made the mental decision to go ahead and said, ‘Listen, let’s get out of this and let’s do what we know is the right thing.’ … You don’t have to pound me too many times for me to get the message.”
Sudler, who jokes that he and local officials “were both crying in our beer” over the fate of the 30-year-old office building, said it was important to have a willing partner in the township. After all, the firm already owns about 1.3 million square feet of big-box industrial space in Cranbury as part of its vast warehouse portfolio in the region.
Not to mention that township officials have long since recognized their location as an asset.
“Cranbury’s exceptional performance as a warehouse location is built on its inherent transportation advantages, but it also is the center for the reinvention of the shipping industry,” Cranbury Mayor Dan Mulligan III said in a prepared statement. “The Panama Canal expansion and Turnpike improvements inspired developer such as Sudler Cos. to creatively redevelop properties, so this is a very exciting time.”