Allergan, the company that makes Botox, gave New Jersey’s commercial real estate market a shot when it moved its headquarters from Parsippany to Madison instead of leaving the state as so many other big pharmaceutical companies have done. As if to drive home the point, it occupies a building in the Giralda Farms office park, the former headquarters campus of Pfizer.
What happened at Giralda Farms is a potential path forward for large corporate campuses in the Route 1 corridor that face an uncertain future after their original tenants are gone.
Giralda Farms, near the campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University, is made up of 17 office buildings. Lincoln Equities Group (LEG) bought one of those buildings, with 450,000 square feet of office space. LEG modernized the 1990s-constructed building and transformed it into a space where Allergan could consolidate all three of its New Jersey locations.
To prepare for leasing the property to Allergan, LEG together with architecture firm HLW added extra parking in an underground garage, and reconfigured the interior space so that more workers could fit in the same space. More than 1,000 people now work at the building.
LEG president Joel Bergstein said his company bought the building three years ago, and negotiated with Allergan before making any changes. “We made a decision that us renovating a building in anticipation of a large corporate user probably wouldn’t be a prudent decision,” he said. “What we did, in a sense, was we created a blank canvas for Allergan to decide what it was that they wanted to do to modernize the building, because they had very specific requirements. Had we actually done modernization to the building first, it probably would have been gutted and thrown out.”
Allergan’s key need was to turn the building into a high-density office, with less square footage per employee than Pfizer had used. Together with the increased density came the need for expanded parking, which required special permits from the township to build an above-ground parking garage to supplement the underground lot that already existed.
On the inside, the changes reflected the changing culture of the workplace. More communal spaces for quick, informal meetings were added along with coffee bars, shops, cafes, and community areas.
A snazzy new customized building was not the only thing that kept Allergan in the state. A $54 million tax break over the next 10 years helped also. The company plans to keep 1,500 jobs in New Jersey and add 300 more full time positions.
All 17 of the buildings on the Pfizer campus are now occupied. Bergstein, whose company also owns the mixed-use Forrestal Village, was skeptical that its success could be replicated on all the big corporate campuses on the Route 1 corridor that are looking for tenants.
Bergstein said LEG could not have attracted Allergan if it didn’t have such a good campus and building to work with. “The original architect had the foresight to see how office utilization would take place in the future,” he said. “Many corporate campuses are not as attractive. We always knew when we bought this building that we had a very good asset in a well-located community that had great access into New York City and a magnificent setting.”