CRANFORD - At Wednesday night's Planning Board Meeting, Mr. Charles Reese of Hartz Mountain testified that he made every attempt to lease 750 Walnut Avenue as commercial, and still continues to do so.
Reese, listed on Hartz Mountain's website as Vice President of Sales and Leasing, mentioned that every month, Hartz Mountain sends out email blasts to a database of over 500 brokers in Northern Jersey and the Manhattan area with the listing of 750 Walnut Avenue. Along with the e-blasts, 750 Walnut Avenue is also still currently listed as available space for lease on Hartz Mountain's website, and listed on CoStar and Loopnet, two online real estate marketplaces.
Along with attempting to lease the former offices that held Bank of America, Reese said he offered Bank of America a "significant decrease" in rent to renew, but in the end, Bank of America chose "to move a few miles south and pay double what we had offered."
Reese mentioned that Hartz Mountain began advertising 750 Walnut Avenue as space for lease about 15 months prior to Bank of America vacating the property, and said since then, he has received three or four serious inquires, but no deal ever came to fruition.
When it came time for public questions and questions from members of the Board, answers left many uneasy. A member of the public asked about how to view the 750 Walnut listing on Loopnet or CoStar, to which Reese said a subscription is needed for those websites to view the listing.
The 750 Walnut Avenue listing on Hartz Mountain's website and email blast lists "current available sq. ft. 28,554-276,728." Planning Board member Christopher Chapman asked Reese how much square footage would a potential deal have to include? Reese answered that it would depend on the price and the term, and in the end said he would show the property at a 30,000 sq. ft. offer, but 40,000 sq. ft. would be a real start.
During his testimony, Reese mentioned that three businesses that remain on the property, PSE&G, LabCorp, and a trucking company all have expiring deals in 2019, and that PSE&G and LabCorp have announced they will be vacating. Reese said they are keeping in contact with the trucking company on the process of what happens with this application. Though a member of the public questioned the coincidence of all remaining leases ending at the same time while the rezoning application is in review, Reese said these leases were signed between 10 and 20 years ago and there was no plan for rezoning back then, and called this rezoning proposal a "reaction" to companies leaving and not being able to lease the building.
"If somebody came to us and expressed interest in leasing a significant amount of 750 Walnut Avenue, and at fair terms, we would certainly do it," said Reese. "We tried on multiple occasions with multiple companies and we came close a few times, but it didn't work. If somebody came, we would move in that direction."
Another member asked Reese if PSE&G offered to buy the area of property that they currently lease to which he responded, "They have not expressed an interest in purchasing the space they're in." Later on in the meeting though, when asked if PSE&G has expressed interest in purchasing any other part of the property, Reese's answer changed. "They're have been discussions although I have not been part of those negotiations."