The biggest building in Princeton — University Square — overlooks Route 1, between the Alexander Road overpass and the Dinky railroad bridge. At five stories and 313,046 square feet, RexCorp’s Goliath dwarfs anything else ever built here.
It is almost twice as big as Patrinely’s five-story building at 1100 Campus Road (Princeton Corporate Campus at the Forrestal Center) which has just 166,900 square feet. It is more than twice as big as the new Hilton Realty building at 902 Carnegie Center West. Though the distance between the three spans almost four miles, all three boast the fabled Princeton zip code.
Yet none of these new structures are located in the borough or township of Princeton. That distinction belongs to the “David” in this group, the Barsky building on Harrison Street, with three stories and 6,400 square feet (see article below).
Most everyone thinks that the Harrison Street building will have no problem getting leased up. Not everyone believes that University Square, 49 times the size of its borough neighbor, will have a similarly quick response.
Naysayers point to the new Campus Road building, which has been standing empty for more than two years. And to an older building in the Forrestal Center, recently vacated by Bloomberg, that is vacant as well.
Yet leasing prospects for the three “on-spec” Class A buildings have brightened since last fall. Carnegie Center West reached the half-full mark in the summer, when Dechert, a law firm, signed for 28,643 square feet, and a group of former Merrill Lynch stock brokers signed up for just over 4,000 feet. Rumors are swirling that Campus Road is about to sign a single pharmaceutical tenant. And RexCorp talks optimistically. “We have quite a bit of good activity,” says Todd Rechler, senior vice president and managing director of the New Jersey division. “We’re confident that it will be fully tenanted by the end of 2008.”
Rechler claims he is not “lion hunting,” that is, he is not going after the biggest trophy in the jungle, one tenant that would take over the entire place. “I think the building will be multitenanted, potentially made up of a lot of tenants coming from many different areas — northern New Jersey, Manhattan, Princeton, and Philadelphia.”
Competitors like to point out that RexCorp’s building has more interior “un-windowed” space than the usual Princeton building, which tends to be long and thin to maximize window space.
Rechler counters by telling how University Plaza, with its jagged corners, boasts 12 corner windowed spaces per floor, and says he is bringing New York styling to New Jersey. In fact his company built nearly exact duplicates of University Plaza, side by side, in Melville, Long Island. The only difference is that Long Island’s version has glass where Princeton’s version has the more expensive granite. The Princeton market needed that extra oomph, Rechler says.
“The most prevalent comment, when users come through, is ‘magnificent,’” he says. At $36 per square foot — the top price for any space that is not downtown Princeton — it offers a full service cafeteria, a “team room” (a conference room that can be set up in several different ways), and a full exercise facility.
Todd Rechler grew up in his family’s business and went to Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. His brother, Scott, is the CEO of RexCorp, which started as a construction company in 1958 and employs a staff of 10 architects and draftsman who do all the firm’s design work in-house and create sample space plans for each prospective tenant.
As Reckson Associates Realty Corp. it went public as a real estate investment trust in 1995. In 2003 Todd’s father, uncle, brother, and cousin bought out the REIT’s industrial properties and formed their own business, Rechler Equity Partners. Last summer Scott and a group of investors “went private” by purchasing the REIT’s Class A properties in New Jersey, Long Island, and Westchester.
At age 37 Todd Rechler is younger than most developers. “As a younger real estate executive in this marketplace, I have the knowledge of 50 years experience, but am well suited to deal with all ages,” he says. “Tenants are our top priority, and we build to last for generations.”