Business & Finance

Nutley Commissioners meet with Prism to Discuss On3 Redevelopment Project on Former Roche Site

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NUTLEY, NJ - Eugene R. Diaz, president and Edwin H. Cohen, principal of Prism Capital Partners met with the Nutley Board of Commissioners on a rescheduled meeting on Thursday, June 8 to discuss the development of On3, the former Roche site on the Nutley/Clifton border.

Prism discussed the progress and time frame on what was developing on the campus. Mayor and Public Works Commissioner Joseph P. Scarpelli and Commissioners Alphonse Petracco, Mauro G. Tucci and Steven L. Rogers and Revenue and Finance Commissioner Thomas J. Evans were present.

The new plans to build a possible apartment building on the other side of the campus were explained as well as the possibility of a hotel on campus. The future site of Seton Hall is a component at the campus and the next step on the development for Prism and the township.

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“We ditched the name Roche… and spent time with branding and marketing the campus,” said Diaz. The site is now known simply as On 3. “You will work On3, invent On3, create On3, maybe one day you live On3  and maybe you will shop On3, we will see how things go in the future,” said Diaz.

The billboard that the former Roche property had now has the On3 logo with a phone number and ‘coming soon’ on it that is visible from the highway. “Part of the element and the branding of the image coming along with the campus is to begin to educate, not just the public, but particularly the user environment for corporations, about what to expect to come to this campus,” said Diaz.

“Urban vitality and suburban flexibility are meeting: a new way of doing business; a new place to do business; sort of the new millennials what’s happening with corporations and employees and their desire to house themselves in 24/7 multi-discipline multi-use campuses as opposed to the insular out west big single office building hidden behind gates. Be more energized have a lot more options around them, a lot more amenities,” Diaz added.

Diaz clarified it’s not just people ages 21 -31 but people 55 years and older as well and it’s all across the board, all demographics.

“We will been able to establish a tremendous life science ecosystem on this campus thanks to the Hackensack Seton Hall commitment to a medical school and Allied Health nursing school and the [National Institutes of Health] clinical research center Hackensack has populating there,” said Diaz.

According to Diaz a large pharmaceutical company from India was looking at the campus to make New Jersey its headquarters as well as a company based in the United Kingdom and another from Germany, because of the life science ecosystem. The On3 Campus is in the running with heating and cooling and backup power.

“We have an advance lease with Hackensack Meridian component to lease the top two floors of building 102 and an additional National Institute of Health funded group to relocate from Washington DC to consolidate with existing offices in the oncology center and the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack,” he said.  

They hope to occupy by January 1 as well as another company leasing the bottom two and half floors of the building, which Diaz was unable to give the name of the company at that time. They anticipate to move in as early as Aug. 1. “The business is bio-fabrication using biology and chemistry to make textiles and fabrics. They have 60 people today and will grow to 251 employees and significant number of them are PhDs,” said Diaz.

The company would like to build a demo process plant and Prism is planning where that will be. Diaz believes the company may attach it to Building 102 and pointed out it will be entirely in Nutley. “A 30-40,000 square foot building which will have over $15 million capital infusion into it,” added Diaz.

Also with the On3 name change the streets in the area will be changed as well First Avenue will be called Metro Boulevard and Fifth Avenue will be known as Innovation Way. The courtyard between Building 1 and 76 will be renovated.

Cohen noted that the floor plan will have 232 people on one floor, he claims Roche had 160. “Building 1 lobby will be an open area. We are cutting away the floor surrounded by glass on the second floor, close off the entrance on First Avenue, to recapture the corridor space to make it much more efficient and make more continuous space on the ground floor and the lobby will have a grab and go coffee bar area,” said Cohen.

“The campus will be a pedestrian friendly environment running to in-town restaurants,” said Diaz.

“Building 76: we intend to remove the marble on eastside of building that goes from the third floor to 15th floor and continue the glass curtain wall around the building so there are unobstructed views of the east of the Manhattan skyline and bring in more light to that building as well,” said Cohen.

“Discussions with consumer products companies, electronics companies and broadcast television network entities to occupy 200 metro Blvd,” said Cohen. “We are seeing fruits of our investment to the campus starting to pay off.”

Roadways and Traffic

Prism met with Essex County to discuss the roadways and traffic. An application with Hackensack has been submitted with roadway improvements.

“We asked engineers to design roundabouts to control traffic flow on Kinglsand Avenue, much easier than the light that you have here now for the intersection of Bloomfield Avenue and Kingsland and the campus itself ,” said Cohen.

Cohen believes it’s a very odd turn where the traffic light is. A roundabout is also planned at Metro Boulevard. Diaz said Essex County, as well as, NJ Transit both like the idea.“There will be no light, this would get rid of the light and allow unencumbered traffic movement on the circle so it will continue to flow instead of people waiting at lights,” said Cohen.

The road for the old Fifth Avenue is being straightened out so that it will center and meet at Kingsland right at the bend to provide better visibility.

Cohen claims it’s very constrained to come out of driveway and the roundabout will make it seamless. The roundabout will be at the final stage of completion when the campus is finished with development.

The site is being looked at by NJ Transit as a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) site. Mayor Scarpelli pointed out that five buses stop at the location. Cohen explains if it’s a TOD site the township can receive funding.  

“The company that was in Building 1 earlier this week said it’s a chief consideration and the decision for them is that they have access to New York City and public transportation,” said Cohen.

Commissioner Petracco voiced his concerns that Clifton Mayor James Anzaldi wants no residential properties on the site. “It takes away from our town. No [residential] that takes away a little bit from our town. I was under impression that we would be bringing people to that campus and that would be another mechanism that would increase our house values. If there’s lot of apartments or luxury apartments, it gives them another option. We have apartments in our town that are going like hotcakes,” he said.

Diaz explained about 12 acres not directly attached to the campus is being considered for assistant living.

“The closing was October 2016 and building 102 is essentially 100 percent rented…” said Diaz. “We were shocked,” added Cohen.

Flood Zone

Cohen addressed the flood zone west of the train tracks off Kingsland Avenue. “We are going to approach the township and ask for assistance in approaching the DEP to allow us to culvert the brook at that location and fix problem. It’s only 18 inch pipe and needs to be 33 inches or bigger,” said Cohen.

Cohen suggested the infrastructure grant money to be spent on it if the township gets the funding.

Employment

“How do we prioritize with regard to employment for our residents who lost their jobs when Roche left. Do we begin this subject when the tenants who sign on board. There will be jobs open so how do we proceed with it,” asked Commissioner Rogers.

“We have skilled workers and other individuals who are out of work. A campus this size is going to have a cross section of people with different skills, is it an application process how do we get them on board,” asked Rogers.

Diaz responded that two Nutley residents from Roche are hired and are on site working.  One way according to Diaz is within the redevelopment plan itself.  “We can’t force a tenant to hire somebody but we can certainly within the redevelopment plan create a structure to look for a first source employment for certain levels of jobs for certain things,” said Diaz.

Commissioner Evans  questioned the integration of planning and it will work with the community to boast a more robust business district on Franklin Avenue.

“Maybe a pathway to walk down to Franklin,” suggested Cohen.

The conference portion of the meeting with Prism ended and the Commissioners broke into regular meeting.

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