Re-Purposing Suburban Office Parks: New Jersey, Ground Zero

Sunday, May 7, 2017 | 9:30 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.
CM | 1.25
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Suburban office markets in the US are seriously underperforming, due to a combination of shifting workplace needs and preferences, and an increasing functional obsolescence on the part of the building stock, building amenities and of the overall land use patterns and design. Review the broad changes in the office workplace nationally, and the trials and tribulations of the re-purposing process in New Jersey.

You'll learn about: 

  • Learn about the broad changes occurring in the office workplace nationally.

  • Learn about the criteria that many major employers are using to make decisions about where to locate.

  • Learn about the preferred amenities and features of the new office workplace.

  • Learn about some common obstacles to re-purposing

  • Learn about the planning opportunities presented by the re-purposing process


The market for suburban office space in New Jersey has been comatose for at least 10 years, with overall vacancy rates pushing 30%. Similar signs are visible in other major suburban office markets nationally. In Q3 of 2015 there were 21 million sq ft of vacant office and retail space in NJ -- 2/3 of that in suburban office properties w/100,000+ sq ft or more. This does not include vacancies in owner-occupied buildings, even if they have been mothballed, only space currently on the market. There are an estimated 7,200 acres of land and 147,000 parking spaces associated with these properties.


The malaise in the suburban NJ office market is reflective of broader trends in the US office workplace, with companies relocating to the mixed-use, 24/7 environments preferred by the millennial labor pool and away from the single-purpose, sterile work-places of the second half of the 20th century.


As a result, there is growing interest in re-purposing these properties for other uses. A pioneer in these efforts is the former Bell Labs research complex in Holmdel, which is being redeveloped into a mixed-use facility, with housing, a hotel, community facilities, healthcare, retail, restaurants and a wide mix of creative economy office users.


Other re-purposing examples are underway. PlanSmartnj has recently released a statewide assessment of distressed office and retail properties in NJ. But there are numerous challenges to re-purposing, which planners must address. This session will discuss the broad changes in the office workplace nationally, and the trials and tribulations of the re-purposing process in New Jersey -- ground zero for re-purposing.


Ralph Zucker , Somerset Development , Holmdel , NJ (see bio)
Ann Brady , Plansmart NJ , Trenton , NJ (see bio)
James Hughes , Rutgers, The State University of NJ , New Brunswick , NJ (see bio)
Carlos Rodrigues , FAICP , Design Solutions for a Crowded Planet , Princeton , NJ (see bio)
Mark Russo , Newmark Grubb Knight Frank , Rutherford , NJ