Business & Finance

Connell Park Could Be Home to a Mixed-Use Development with an 'Urban Vibe'

98b842cdd8d2109b5a47_DSC01089.JPG
Shane Connell discusses previous plans for the site. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
46eacdb60fe4591a2422_2391a80563ca72df3d69_DSC01091.JPG
Shane Connell shows previous plans for the site. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
3d01f72b5310da83227c_DSC01092.JPG
Credits: Barbara Rybolt
e1aed6ea52b7f5346a97_DSC01095.JPG
Township Planner Mike Mistretta, Harbor Consultants. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
4f7b2f6a03e5d43228e1_DSC01096.JPG
Residents watch Credits: Barbara Rybolt
f9cdcf1aee7ed2ecbc7f_DSC01099.JPG
Council listens to Shane Connell discuss the re-zoning of a 12-acre section of Connell Park. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
b119786b9d76ee38d3b7_IMG_0969.PNG
A slide from the presentation on the rezoning of Connell Park. The current park. Credits: HKS - Connell
a6f9a87063197ae05c15_IMG_0970.PNG
Who is leaving New Jersey. Credits: HKS - Connell
b3313c13ea32713afe97_IMG_0976.PNG
Site Plan with proposed garage, Connell Park. Credits: HKS - Connell
11378377ad3578b46f6d_IMG_0978.PNG
Embassy Suites and Starbucks Credits: HKS - Connell
0e4e09d385f5dd2c9604_IMG_0979.PNG
Plans for Connell Park existing building renovations. Credits: HKS - Connell
dbf7e9e335e053b2c1b8_IMG_0985.PNG
Open Park Concept Credits: HKS - Connell
29624d2ca4cb8d624cab_IMG_0988.PNG
Open Park Concept Plan Continuation Credits: HKS - Connell
c73eab2b54b52349251a_IMG_0989.PNG
Open Park Concept Plan Continuation Credits: HKS - Connell
98b842cdd8d2109b5a47_DSC01089.JPG

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Not quite two years after approaching the council about re-zoning an area of Connell Park, Connell Corporation Executive Vice President Shane Connell returned, this time with conceptual plans for a high-end mixed-use development.

The presentation to the council was made at the Aug. 15 meeting and included a slide presentation and a history lesson on the changes at the site since Connell's presentation in November 2015. The area under discussion encompasses 12 acres of the 180-acre corporate park.  

After re-zoning, the finished product would be a “vibrant mixed-use center with the energy and the vibe of an urban” setting, said Randy Martin an architect with HKS. That company, an internationally known architecture firm, is collaborating with Gensler, another internationally recognized architecture firm, to come up with a first-class design for the site.

Sign Up for E-News

Currently, that area is zoned for an office building with 260,000 square feet of space and a parking garage. However, in New Jersey and around the country, office buildings are seeing increasing number of vacancies and corporate parks are starting to lose tenants, as millennials move out of state or into areas with more urban amenities.

The solution to that has been to rebrand and reconfigure office parks and turn them into places attractive to employees and employers alike, because of the “vibe” of the site. The entire corporate park becomes a place where employees, employers and community members “can work, shop, play and exercise,” said Connell, and the out of date park turns into a “long term generationally viable site.”

The rebranding of the park began years ago, when Lifetime Fitness was added to the mix, followed by “the everlasting hotel construction,” and the addition of Starbucks, said Connell. Each of the office buildings on the site are being renovated, to the tune of a budgeted $10 million per building. Those changes will include new exteriors, including windows, new roofs, lobbies, café-like dining areas, and gyms.

Connell said there would be between 312 and 328 mixed-use high-end residential rental units in the development, with between 50,000 and 85,000 square feet of retail space. This would obligate Connell to build about 35 affordable housing units, some of which might be located off site, but those on site would conform to the same architectural standards as those used on site, he said. The number of affordable housing units required would be 11.5% of the number of market-rate housing units in the development, lower than the 15% required because of previous regional contributions made by Connell Corporation. If the number of market-rate units were higher than 328, then additional units would need to be calculated at 15%, Councilman Marc Faecher said.

Feelers have gone out to see which high-end retailers might be interested in locating at Connell Park, including a specialty grocer, “as concierge for our tenants,” said Connell.

The development would be unique for this area, and, he said, he hopes it will be like Giralda Farms in Madison, where the walking track around the office park attracts people from all over the area to walk, push baby carriages and run. Connell Park is getting ready to break ground on a three-mile trail, which will be open to the public.

It also has The Grove, an “outdoor, stacked park,” which is open to residents. Connell Park has WiFi throughout the site, including the Grove, which is an outdoor work space that people can use. “They can just come to our park and work there … We want activity, we are designing so people can do that.” he said.

As for the concerns of neighboring Watchung, “The indications are this has a lower impact than offices” on traffic in and out of the site, he said. The park offers a shuttle service to the train station; the hotel, when it opens will offer shuttle service to the airport and, he has heard, “driverless cars are ten years away, not twenty,” so maybe people will call for a “car and never have to drive a car again,” Connell said.

 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

Sleep out at Covenant House

June 18, 2018

I can enjoy the same movies over and over like it were the first time to see them.  My kids roll their eyes at this.  Well, many unimaginable things happen as you become a certain age, and you tend to learn to accept those things graciously as gift.   But I remember the movie “The Blind Side.”  Until I saw that movie, I didn’t know homeless children ...

Moms Helping Moms Foundation Receives Overwhelming Support from Community to Help Mothers this Mother’s Day

June 20, 2018

Mother’s Day is often celebrated by showering the women in our lives with beautiful flowers, heartfelt cards, and taking them on special outings to show them how much they mean to us. Yet, for many low-income mothers living in our community, they struggle each day to provide the basics for their babies.

Diapers are a necessity yet one in three families in the United States lack an ...

New Providence Recreation Offers Adult Summer Programs

New Providence Recreation is accepting registrations for adult evening and daytime programs that run June 25th – August 31st.  Most of the eight to nine-week sessions are under $65; several programs are free for NP residents!  All levels of fitness and those returning to exercise are welcome.

Programs are offered starting at 6 a.m.. If you are seeking weight loss, core body ...

Summit Community Blood Drive is Sunday; First 50 donors Will Get a Free Union Theater Movie Pass

The weather may have just started to warm up, but New Jersey Blood Services (NJBS) is already urging the public to donate blood as we head into the summer months.  With schools closing and vacations scheduled, less people donate blood from June through August but transfusions are still needed for local patients.   

“We’re especially thankful to our dedicated donors ...

Union County College Hires New Dean of Humanities

CRANFORD – Dr. Melissa R. Sande is the new Dean of Humanities for Union County College. Dr. Sande joined Union in the fall of 2013 as a full-time instructor of English. She has more than ten years of teaching experience and has previously served as a program coordinator, writing tutor, and an adjunct instructor.

As the Dean of Humanities, Dr. Sande will be responsible for the supervision ...

Watchung Borough Mayor and Council Approve Affordable Housing Settlement

June 9, 2018

WATCHUNG, NJ -The Watchung Borough Council voted on Thursday night  to settle its third round affordable housing obligation mandated by the state of New Jersey. Watchung Borough’s immunity from builder's remedy lawsuits  expires on June 30.

 Mayor Stephen Pote was forced to cast the deciding vote after the council deadlocked at 3-3.

Scotch Plains Mayor Al Smith Attends Gun Safety Bills Signing Ceremony with Gov. Murphy in Trenton

June 14, 2018

TRENTON, NJ -- Mayor Al Smith attended a gun safety package bill signing ceremony at the Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex in Trenton on Wednesday with Governor Phil Murphy. Mayor Smith joined a bipartisan group of local and state elected officials, as well as members of Moms Demand Action of Union County, at the event. 

“As a leader in Sandy Hook Promise, I was happy to accept the ...

What's Hot and What's Not

Summer is a great time to take a step back, sip a cool beverage, and take a look at what’s going on in the world of college admissions.  Departments use the summer to evaluate how their year went and plan on any changes they want to make for the fall.  Did they over-enroll? Under-enroll?  What application materials were useful to them?  Which were redundant or time ...

How to Design Your Ideal Retirement

Would you like to design your ideal retirement? Where do you begin? First of all, what does retirement mean to you? If you’re in a relationship, does retirement mean the same to you as it does to your partner? Do you know if your “ideal retirement” is affordable or just a pipe dream?

In past generations, retirement planning didn’t involve very much. You stopped work ...

Cool Ways to Save Money This Summer

As the summer temperatures rise, home cooling costs rise as well. But there are ways to help save money without sweating the heat:

To increase your cooling system’s efficiency by as much as 20%, get it checked out for summer.  A technician will clean the condenser, make sure you have the optimal amount of refrigerant, and ensure the airflow over the coil is ...