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Ex-Roche campus reinvented as 'On3' science center
northjersey.com
June 15, 2017
Original Article

The former Hoffmann-La Roche campus that borders Clifton and Nutley has a new name.

"On3" seeks to incorporate living, working and playing in the Route 3 site, according to Prism Capital Partners' principal Eugene Diaz. He described the redevelopment as "a mini-metropolis in the suburbs."

The firm wants to reinvent the 116-acre campus that the pharmaceutical giant began vacating in 2012, creating a synergy among like-minded businesses geared toward life sciences. It also wants to bring jobs to an area that sustained a severe blow in the loss of Roche, which employed 8,000 to 10,000 in its heyday in the late 20th century, he said.

The flagship project for the campus is a medical school that is a joint plan of Hackensack Meridian Health and Seton Hall University, and would be the state's first private medical school in 50 years.

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority has approved $16.9 million in tax credits to develop the site.

In discussing the formation of a bio sciences campus, Diaz cited Silicon Valley and Cambridge, Mass., where such "eco-systems" exist.

"Sort of like, where there's a McDonald's, there's a Burger King," Diaz said.

Roche departed the property in a "first-class fashion. ... They were a great corporate citizen providing the greatest opportunity for redevelopment," said Diaz.

It leaves Prism marketing a campus with a quarter-mile frontage on a major highway, and close to New York City, he said.

"Our focus is to make sure we attract the widest array of users that will be here for the long term," he added.

In June 2012, Roche announced the campus' closure, laying off 1,000 workers. The municipalities lost $15 million in annual taxes and were eager to redevelop the property with industries that offer high-paying jobs.

In January 2016, the medical school was announced by Seton Hall and the Hackensack Meridian network, which includes Hackensack University Medical Center and 12 other hospitals from Bergen to Ocean counties. PB Nutclif I LLC, an affiliate of Bloomfield-based Prism Capital Partners, bought the property last October.

Existing buildings

Redevelopment will first focus on the existing five buildings, Diaz said.

Upon Prism's purchase, the universities' partnership signed a lease for the medical school in buildings 123 and 123A, seven stories each, together totaling 500,000 square feet.

The Interprofessional Health Sciences campus would also include Seton Hall University's College of Nursing and the School of Health and Medical Sciences, which will be moving from the South Orange campus to the new site.

"This is the first time [in New Jersey] educating doctors and nurses together," Diaz said.

Connecting to the 123 buildings via a sky bridge, Building 102 is in the finishing stages of lease agreements, Diaz said. Half of the five-story, 150,000-square-foot building will be occupied by a bio-fabrication firm, relocating from New York, he said. He declined to name the tenant.

That leaves the iconic, 15-story office tower, Building 76, and another seven-story office building, Building 1, together totaling 500,000 square feet. A variety of industries, including bio-pharmaceutical, consumer product, entertainment and fashion businesses have expressed interest in those spaces, Diaz said.

Other opportunities

The campus also has vacant land available in Clifton and Nutley. "We're already negotiating contracts for purpose-built facilities," said Diaz, who noted there are also residential, retail and service opportunities.

Meanwhile, Roche is overseeing remediation on the property. Soil cleanup has been completed while groundwater cleanup continues, Diaz said.

According to Diaz, Prism seeks to improve the campus' roadways as well as nearby exterior streets. One example he cited would be working with Essex County to reconfigure the intersection of Kingsland and Bloomfield avenues.

The company has discussed possible bus line and shelter changes with NJ Transit, he said.

There's much work ahead with Nutley and Clifton, including planning and zoning approvals.

"We're excited about the activities to get our ratables back up, job opportunities for our residents, and [the anticipated success] to spill over into our local economy," Nutley Mayor Joseph Scarpelli said.

Roche's departure was a blow to Nutley, with the town being dependent on one corporation, the mayor said.

"With a diversity of uses, we'll never be in that position again," said Scarpelli.