Original Article

New Jersey’s first private medical school in 50 years moved closer to reality when officials from Hackensack Meridian Health and Seton Hall University signed a lease with developers of the former Hoffmann-LaRoche site in Nutley and Clifton, officials announced Thursday morning.

In a related deal, Prism Capital Partners purchased the 116-acre site from the pharmaceutical giant to develop it as a corporate park, anchored by the medical school and likely to include research and development companies and other high-tech options, officials said.

The sale, which concludes nearly two years of negotiations, is expected to close Sept. 30, officials said. The financial terms were not disclosed.

Seton Hall University and Hackensack Meridian Health — the network created in a merger last month that includes 11 acute care hospitals and two children’s hospitals in Bergen, Hudson, Essex and four other counties — signed a 25-year lease with Prism and intend to open the school in 2018.

“Together with our partner, Seton Hall University, Hackensack Meridian Health is pleased to enter this agreement with Prism Capital Partners for the home of our medical school,” said Robert C. Garrett, co-CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health.

“The longevity of the lease indicates our confidence that this school of medicine will thrive and become one of the nation’s best,” he said.

Under the terms of the agreement, Seton Hall and Meridian Health will lease 16 acres including two buildings that will house the new health and sciences medical campus. The campus will include the new school of medicine the two organizations are starting, as well as Seton Hall’s College of Nursing and School of Health and Medical Sciences, which will be relocating from the university’s main campus in South Orange, officials said.

One of the buildings is 400,000-square feet and contains labs and multimillion dollar equipment built in 1994. Valium and Interferon were created in the building. It would cost about $500 million to replicate, officials said.

Executives at Prism, located in Bloomfield, did not return calls Thursday morning. The company has developed several commercial and resident properties in the northeast.

The as-yet unnamed school will offer four-year programs for about 125 students per class. Retaining those physicians is a founding goal of the venture — when medical students are educated and trained in New Jersey, they are twice as likely to stay and practice medicine here, Garrett said.

The facility still needs approval from the American Medical Association’s Liaison Committee on Medical Education — a national group whose rigorous process usually takes 12 to 15 months.

“Seton Hall is proud to partner with Hackensack Meridian Health in the signing of this lease agreement to create a state-of-the-art health and medical sciences campus that will serve as the home for our new School of Medicine,” said University President A. Gabriel Esteban.

Earlier this year, Dr. Bonita Stanton, a nationally recognized expert on pediatric medicine, was appointed the founding dean of the school.

The mayors of Clifton and Nutley are in negotiations over a PILOT agreement — payment in lieu of taxes — for the medical school property. The communities lost $15 million in annual taxes when the drug maker left and are eager to see the remainder of the property developed with industries that offer high-paying jobs.