Roche sale process set in motion

By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent


A global investment management firm specializing in real estate services has been contracted to broker the sale of the 116-acre Hoffman-La Roche research & development campus straddling the Nutley/Clifton border, stretching from Kingsland St. to Rt. 3.

Jones Lang LaSalle, with annual revenues listed at nearly $4 billion and with operations in 70 countries, is the firm entrusted with the task, according to a release issued by JLL publicist Shea Communications on Feb. 20.

Roche spokewoman Darien Wilson confirmed the announcement and said that Roche anticipated JLL would be “reaching out to various redevelopers” and arranging for them to visit the Roche site within the coming months.

“Hopefully, we’ll be in a position to identify a buyer and outline development options by later this year,” Wilson said. “It is still our plan to divest our property [in Nutley and Clifton] by the end of 2015.”

R&D operations at the site have been pretty much shut down with only a skeleton crew still working. Another Roche property in Belleville is also in the process of being sold but the Belleville governing body has already designated David Mack Properties of Southport, Conn., as the redeveloper for that site.

Roche Vice President Tom Lyon said the pharmaceutical research firm picked JLL based, in part, on its “proven track record of successfully divesting complex, technically- sophisticated properties.”

JLL said the Roche account will be handled by Thomas Stanton 3rd, managing director; John Buckley, vice president; and Joseph Garibaldi, managing director with the firm’s capital markets group.

Stanton – whose father, the late Thomas Stanton Jr., was president/CEO of the former First Jersey National Bank, headquartered in Jersey City, and a prime mover of waterfront development and creation of the brownstone district in Jersey City – said in the JLL release that, “The proximity of Roche’s campus to major transportation corridors, mass transportation hubs and the surrounding urban demographic make this property a uniquely desirable site.”

In a phone interview with The Observer last Friday, Stanton, who was recently elected vice chairman of the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce, said: “The preference is to divest to one buyer in a single sale.”

“We’re going to spend the next couple of months making sure we educate the relevant players in the marketplace, capable of this scale of redevelopment,” Stanton said. Those players, he said, would include “investors, buyers, users, developers to obtain the best price for Roche.”

And, Stanton added, “Part of that calculation is the speedy redevelopment of site.”

How that will play out, he said, will hinge on “collaboration between the buyer, the municipalities [Nutley and Clifton] and, of course, Roche.”

Asked if he was concerned about reservations raised in a Roche consultants report prepared by Perkins, Eastman that certain suggested redevelopment options, tempered by municipal misgivings, may face significant build-out delays, Stanton characterized the report as “thoughtful” but added that it “stands on its own … it’s not our report.”

Perkins, Eastman pitched varying scenarios of a mixed-use redevelopment of the Roche site that includes residential, retail, office, hotel and med-tech components, all interconnected by a “necklace” of green space.

“We’re really excited about this project,” Stanton said. “We view our mission as important because it’s going to play a material role in terms of the future for that area. For that reason, we want to expose it to the highest quality buyers.”

The Nutley Board of Commissioners have scheduled a public discussion on the recommendations contained in the Perkins, Eastman report on March 12 at 7 p.m. in the upstairs chambers at the Municipal Building.

Listed as existing “high-value building assets” now on the site, according to JLL, are these structures:

• A 504,000 square foot building built in 1994 which “includes chemistry, biology, vivarium and support space typical of a fully integrated research complex, including a 130-seat auditorium, offices and collaboration space.”

• A 176,000 square foot building, renovated in 2011, that “can operate as a stand-alone integrated R&D facility [and which] features an 85-seat auditorium and an enclosed, glass walkway to [another building].”

• A 281,456 square foot building that lends itself to “manufacturing functions” and “highpotency tablet manufacturing that was renovated in 2011.”

• A 15-story, 325,000 square foot office building “that is newly renovated” including “green” building provisions.

• A seven-story, 250,000 square foot office building built in 1996 that can accommodate more than 800 people and which houses a fitness center.

JLL says that Roche will complete an environmental remediation investigation report on its property which “will be filed with the state Department of Environmental Protection within the upcoming months and that it “plans to implement approved remediation options designed to allow for any conceivable future use of the property.”

As part of its resume, JLL says it “provides management and real estate outsourcing services to a property portfolio of 2.6 billion square feet and completed $63 billion in sales, acquisitions and finance transactions in 2012. Its investment management business, LaSalle Investment Management, has $46.7 billion of real estate assets under management.”

Among the “featured properties” it’s currently marketing are the N.J. Center of Excellence, a life science facility with 500,000 square feet of lab space in Bridgewater; the Mall of America Crossings in Bloomington, Minn.; the 2,000-acre Grand Lake Park in Conroe, Texas, where a “mix of uses” is proposed; and the 62-acre Marine Industrial Facility, just south of Port Arthur, Texas, offered for sale for $22 million.

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