BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Following the lead of the planning board, the Bridgewater Township Council introduced an ordinance Jan. 19 that rezones a section of the Somerset Corporate Center and allows for the building of a fitness center and hotel.
According to Nicole Dory, attorney with SJP Properties that owns the Somerset Corporate Center, two years ago the township was approached with an idea to enhance the amenities that were desired by tenants so it would be more than just an office park.
Dory said the township had already approved a sixth office park that was never constructed.
At this point, Dory said, SJP Properties has entered into contracts with Lifetime Fitness and the Briad Group for a hotel.
“It was recognized that the existing manufacturing zone that allows warehouses and regional retail didn’t fit, and it would be best to rezone,” she said.
The concept approved by the planning board, Dory said, is to rezone the property with a new zone called the Bridgewater Regional Corporate Center Zone.
“Both the name of the zone and the requirements reflect a mutual goal to have a land use plan that reflects and supports the office park as top tier development,” she said.
The fitness center, Dory said, would be 115,000 square feet, as opposed to the 241,000-square-foot office park with parking garage that had previously been allowed on that site.
And the land not needed by the fitness center, Dory said, would be conveyed to the township for sports use.
The hotel component would be a franchise from Marriott for a high quality AC Hotel, which is a luxury brand by Marriott. Dory said it would be 150 rooms with a separate restaurant.
“The proposed hotel meets stringent requirements for a high quality hotel,” she said.
With the endorsement of the zoning change, and if it is approved by the township, SJP Properties expects to bring an application to the planning board and begin construction in mid 2017.
As for Lifetime Fitness, Aaron Koehler, director of development, said their interest in Bridgewater goes back some time.
“We have always viewed this area as a highly accessible area for surrounding communities, combined with a great array of amenities,” he said. “It checks boxes for live, work and play that a lot of young families look for, and they also happen to be Lifetime’s core membership base.”
“With that group being very attracted to this area, we think we can be highly successful and provide healthy entertainment in this area,” he added.
The vision, Koehler said, is for a close to 120,000-square-foot building with three stories, including a pool deck. He said they will provide indoor and outdoor pools, strength and cardio, pilates, a spa and a cafe.
“This is a typical facility you would add to the office park, and it is easy to quantify the membership from residential,” he said. “As we’ve grown and had more data to pull and built clubs within existing office parks, we have found a great synergy. It has become a bonus on top of the typical membership.”
Koehler said the company was founded in 1992, with a concept to allow for month to month payments, and provide amenities to members.
“It has morphed into trying to provide a great experience as a country club without a golf course,” he said. “We currently have 123 clubs across the United States and Canada.”
In addition, Koehler said, the company has a foundation that works on nutrition in schools, partnering with them to come up with healthy school lunches.
“Whatever the cost above and beyond what the school has planned to pay for lunches, we would pay for,” he said. “We find we can work with them and improve the process so the delta in the cost starts to shrink and it is eventually self sustaining.”
James Ardizzone, brand director for the Briad Group, spoke about the plans for the hotel on the property. The company, he said, has more than 200 restaurants throughout the country, and five hotels nationwide.
“We have the expertise and management infrastructure to operate a first class hotel and restaurant,” he said. “We are excited to be part of this partnership because we feel these are the creme of the crop in the industries, and we believe we will provide the same thing.”
The plan, Ardizzone said, is for a 150-room AC by Marriott hotel on the property, with an attached restaurant.
“This hotel is a premier lifestyle brand,” he said. “It is the same level as a W hotel, that high finishes, that quality.”
“This brand is specifically designed with the executive in mind,” he added.
Ardizzone said executives can use the AC as a home base, and entertain in an upscale environment. There is a bar and lounge for meetings, a conference room and at least two eating facilities, he said.
“We provide concierge service and room service, plus other amenities,” he said. “We feel this will provide the busy executive a place to have meetings and be able to entertain. The brand fits perfectly in the Bridgewater market.”
The master plan was amended by the planning board for the zoning to include these two new developments, according to township attorney William Savo, and traffic studies and other work will be done once the application actually comes before the planning board.
Township planner Scarlett Doyle said they are in full support of the rezoning and new development. In addition, she said, a representative from Linde Americas, which has a large presence in the corporate center, showed full support for the new development.
“He said the health and wellness center would be an asset to the staff, and he was interested in providing international housing accommodations for his international guests,” she said. “Because he didn’t feel that what we have to offer in Bridgewater was quite to the Linde expectation, he felt this would be an asset to the firm.”
“From a planning perspective, I recommend this,” she added. “This is the heart of the regional center, so Somerville and Raritan will also benefit from this.”
Councilman Filipe Pedroso said he is in support of the rezoning.
“I think Lifetime Fitness is a high end club and it will fit in nicely, and I think AC by Marriott will be a good fit,” he said.
The township council approved the introduction of three ordinances regarding the rezoning. It was expected to go back before the planning board for a recommendation before returning to the township council for final action Feb. 6.