Dear Berkeley Heights Residents and Business Owners,
For decades, The Connell Company has enjoyed being a committed partner to and active member of the Berkeley Heights community.
From our annual support for the fire department, rescue squad, police department, schools, local events, including hosting the drive-in movie nights this year and with BH Cares to the Township’s recent efforts to help support local businesses struggling through the horrid effects of COVID-19 with "Business Aid: Berkeley Heights,” one of the best things about calling Berkeley Heights home is the cooperation that exists between all of us.
In recent years, we have been very active in reimagining Connell Corporate Park – now dubbed “The Park” — as not only a destination for business, but ultimately, an asset for every member of this community.
We want to reinvent this property to benefit all Berkeley Heights residents. But, unless you work at The Park, or you’re tuned in to all of the local Planning and Zoning Board meetings, we realize that you might not have the full picture of our plans. After all, this is an 8-year plan in which we’re investing a total of $400 million –– not exactly an effort that can be summed up in a single sentence.
The Park is a property that my family has stewarded for three generations; our roots are here, and we are committed to you. It’s immensely important to us that it becomes a centerpiece that every Berkeley Heights resident will be proud of (and we think you will be!)
So, What’s the Plan for The Park?
We’ve renamed Connell Corporate Park to The Park for a reason: We don’t want it to be just a corporate office complex. Instead, we’re viewing the property as open space that the public can enjoy as well as The Park’s tenants, offering sprawling green trails and parks, as well as new services, amenities, dining, and entertainment offerings. Our vision is about thoughtfully programming this 185-acre campus with the right balance of elements so that it complements the surrounding community and provides new experiences that both the public and campus members can enjoy.
We have worked for many years with a world-class team of architects, designers, and planners to create a vision for The Park that integrates commercial/office space, lifestyle and fitness amenities, hospitality, outdoor recreation and open spaces, restaurant and entertainment concepts, and residential uses that will transform the property into a great place that people love.
Starting several years ago, we began to introduce new uses to the campus, with the addition of a Life Time Fitness, Embassy Suites hotel, Starbucks and Grain & Cane restaurant, The Grove and the newly finished, 1.5-mile linear park. Our current zoning allows future development of residential buildings, along with retail. However, the property’s existing zoning means the campus is only accessible today to office tenants, hotel guests, Life Time’s members, and restaurant patrons — that’s something we’re hoping to change soon so we can officially open up The Park to everyone.
In the meantime, we’re continuing to focus on modernizing our existing office buildings to include high-end coworking, healthy and fresh food services, and wellness amenities. We have also been hard at work on finishing several of the campus’ outdoor spaces, including The Grove — a central park that can one day serve as a venue for art shows, lectures, outdoor fitness classes, concerts, art classes, and private events — and a landscaped walking trail that will run the entire circumference of the campus.
How The Park Fits In
We understand that the community may have questions about what the plans for The Park mean for Berkeley Heights’ existing businesses. The short answer: This is an addition, not a replacement.
Maintaining a balance with our existing downtown is central to this initiative, and we are focusing our efforts on retail experiences that will complement the existing Berkeley Heights’ business district, not compete with them. Specifically, the retail concepts we plan to bring to The Park will focus on entertainment retail and dining, a brewery and a specialty grocery concept, all programmed to create a connected mixed-use campus and focus on destination uses that will draw the local community to come and enjoy our offerings.
Not only will The Park’s planned retail experiences complement the existing downtown businesses, but we also aim to help drive more customers to the businesses along Springfield Avenue. A key element of this plan is a mobile app, which we will launch later this year, that will enable users to navigate amenities and services both within The Park campus, as well as within the broader Berkeley Heights community. This will help connect employees of and visitors to The Park with Berkeley Heights’ local shopping gems.
To reiterate, The Connell Company will not position The Park as a competitor to Berkeley Heights’s vibrant downtown. In fact, we’ll fight to be an ally of every small business that operates there, helping them connect with the thousands of new people that arrive to work, live, and play at The Park.
If you’re a business owner interested in learning more about The Park App, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Appinfo@thepark.com.
Making The Park a Place for Everyone
I’ll be candid: We know that some local residents access the open space and walking trails at The Park today, and I understand why! We’ve put in a lot of effort to nurture beautiful green space as a true focus of The Park, but the unfortunate fact is that these green spaces are currently zoned for use by tenants of the campus’ office space only. Again, that’s not our goal — just a reality of our current zoning restrictions, which we’re confident will soon change. We want The Park to be different, and enacting zoning to make The Park public is important to making the transition from “corporate office park” to “connected community amenity for all.”
Once The Park is rezoned, The Connell Company will design the parks and trails to benefit all residents of Berkeley Heights. We will expand beyond just tenant-programmed outdoor amenities and phase in community-minded amenities along the trail; we also plan to add a 1950s roadside hamburger stand concept with a large dog park, playground and sport courts in the northern Grove area.
Especially these days, when so many of us are relegated to lots and lots of time at home, we want to encourage people to be able to enjoy the outdoors and connect to nature. For The Connell Company, that means the open spaces on campus must be as carefully considered as our commercial and planned residential and retail spaces. The Park’s walkable environment will be the entree to a unique environment focused on creating great places for people to work, live, and meet, by offering a fresh perspective on design, hospitality, and connectivity.
With the township’s partnership, The Connell Company is proud to bring this inclusive vision to fruition. As we continue to make progress with this initiative, we’ll be checking in regularly to provide updates to the public about the latest improvements at The Park.
The Connell Company