NJ’s New Generation of Workspaces

Michael Sommer, executive vice president at Edison Properties, reveals how one of the largest office projects underway in Newark, N.J., acts as a catalyst for the revitalization of the area's office space inventory and more.
Michael Sommer, Executive Vice President of Development, Edison Properties

In the past year, New Jersey recorded the lowest unemployment rate in more than a decade. Companies have started to view it as a budget-friendlier alternative to the pricey New York City due to its good infrastructure and deep talent pool. These factors, combined with a favorable business climate, fueled a healthy leasing activity and positive absorption.

According to Yardi Matrix, more than 630,000 square feet of office space is under construction in New Jersey. Most of the upcoming projects are highly amenitized, transit-oriented mixed-use assets capable of attracting tenants such as Teva Pharmaceuticals or Mars Wrigley Confectionery. One of the largest properties in the pipeline is being developed by Edison Properties and stands as a testimony to the needs of today’s commercial tenant. Michael Sommer, the firm’s executive vice president of development, sheds light on the role Ironside Newark has in the city’s revitalization and more.

Edison Properties is currently developing Ironside Newark, Newark, N.J.’s first speculative office in more than 30 years. What can you tell us about this project?

Sommer: Ironside Newark is the transformative 21st century workplace in the heart of Newark’s revitalized downtown. The 456,000-square-foot mixed-use commercial destination is the result of 20 years’ worth of vision, planning collaboration and execution, incorporating 350,000 square feet of modern loft office space with 100,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and common space.

The building—an innovative adaptive reuse of a long-vacant former freight warehouse—features ground floors fronting on the newly constructed Mulberry Commons Park, providing a critical nexus between the extensive public transit network at Newark Penn Station and other local attractions such as the Prudential Center arena. By creating a one-of-a-kind modern office destination in Newark, Edison Properties has been successful in attracting multiple tenants, including a long-term, 148,500-square-foot lease with Mars Wrigley Confectionery. 

What makes this project stand out from other developments in the area and the rest of your projects?

Sommer: Ironside Newark is a one-of-a-kind project not just in Newark, but in all of northern New Jersey. Edison Properties has redeveloped a historic former freight warehouse—constructed as a terminal facility in 1907 by the Central Railroad of New Jersey—into a modern, mixed-use commercial destination that incorporates loft-style offices, green space and ground-floor retail and restaurants.

The building benefits from an innovative 21st century design that preserves various elements of the 112-year-old structure and transforms it into the kind of modern venue today’s companies are seeking. Ironside is also distinguished by its amenities, including a roof deck with green space, an all-glass rooftop penthouse that includes a shared conference room and commercial prep kitchen. The building is also the first redevelopment project in all of New Jersey to receive WiredScore’s coveted Platinum certification.

Please elaborate on the revitalization trend that took over the Newark area, and the way Edison Properties is contributing to this urban redevelopment scheme.

Ironside Newark

Sommer: As Newark’s first speculative office project in more than 30 years, Ironside Newark is a powerful symbol of how far the city’s revitalization has come and a key reason why it is poised to grow even stronger in the years to come. The city has always possessed all of the necessary components to restore its place as a great American destination and today its public officials, businesses and other stakeholders have worked together to make it a reality.

Ironside is a perfect example of that partnership, as it represents the first piece of the Mulberry Commons District, which includes a public park and various other parcels that will serve as a new attraction for the city’s downtown. Edison’s transformation of a formerly vacant warehouse into a modern, mixed-use commercial destination is only one part of a wider revitalization for Newark, but also helps set a new standard for the revitalization of other New Jersey communities seeking to create more walkable, vibrant downtowns.

How do you see the New Jersey office market right now?

Sommer: As more and more companies seek space in walkable urban environments with easy access to public transportation, New Jersey’s office market is poised for significant growth. As rents in major cities like New York City and Philadelphia continue to rise, many of these users are seeking space in places like Newark, which offers unmatched transportation options, state-of-the-art technological connectivity, a talented labor pool, a diverse population and numerous entertainment and cultural options.

Ironside Newark has found significant success attracting companies by introducing a one-of-a-kind, mixed-use office and retail destination into the market—including law firms and other companies typically associated with a more traditional product. As more modern, loft-style office space is introduced into Newark and other areas in New Jersey, the state’s market is likely to become even stronger.

What are your company’s short- and long-term plans?

Sommer: Edison Properties is a company with long-term vision.  We continually seek out opportunities to create value while becoming active stakeholders in the communities in which we invest.

Images courtesy of Ironside Newark