Blackrock has put an end to three years of rumors — the financial giant will move from 800 Scudders Mill Road in Plainsboro to University Square at Route 1 and Alexander Road.
On Monday a spokeswoman from the company confirmed that Blackrock would lease 141,000 square feet at University Square, at Route 1 and Alexander Road, for approximately 800 employees. The company would offer no official comment on the move, but the spokeswoman did confirm that the 1,000 employees based at Scudders Mill Road would be split between University Square and New York City.
Speculation over whether the company would leave its 350,000-square-foot space on Scudders Mill Road began well before University Square even broke ground. At one time it appeared that Blackrock would move its Plainsboro operations to the Philadelphia area. The company also was courted by landlords in Trenton and New Brunswick, as well as West Windsor. Though the company had long denied its intention to move to University Square, Blackrock employees have been seen scouting the building over the past several months.
But every time it seemed as if Blackrock was about to sign a lease, more delays — and more speculation — were the only results. Jerry Fennelly, president of NAI Fennelly in Hamilton, said this is common for companies like Blackrock. “Their business model changes every six months,” he said. What the company needs now is not necessarily what it will need by the end of the year. Staff sizes and requirements could shift, among other things.
Plus, he added, the company did not need to make an immediate decision because its lease at Scudders Mill does not expire in October, 2011. “They’ve had the benefit of not having to commit,” he said.
It also has had the luxury of not worrying about the money. One of the largest financial firms in the world, Blackrock has several thousand employees worldwide and manages more than $3 trillion in assets.
Blackrock has occupied about half the available space at the otherwise-unpopulated former Merrill Lynch building in Plainsboro. Fennelly suggested that the move to a smaller space (less than half what it occupies now) would go a long way toward right-sizing the company’s needs and improving morale among the staff. He referred to the space on Scudder’s Mill Road as “cavernous,” saying that in smaller quarters, management will have an easier time keeping up with the staff and the staff will feel more connected to the company.
Though Blackrock did not say when specifically it would move, Fennelly said that moves of such scale as this usually take about nine months.
Blackrock is now the third tenant to sign on at University Square, which just recently became operational with the move-in of Maryland-based Axis Reinsurance. Axis has yet to speak publicly about its move to West Windsor, but it announced in January that it would lease 26,000 square feet in the 313,000-square-foot building.
Axis, the second company to announce a lease signing at University Square, was the first to move in. Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, a Japan-based company, was the first to sign on here last summer. Otsuka has remained mum on its move from 100 Overlook Drive, but it has signed a 67,531-square-foot lease — more than tripling its size on Overlook — for a potential move of its headquarters from near Baltimore.
#b#BlackRock Inc#/b#. (BLK), 800 Scudders Mill Road, Box 9074, Princeton 08543-9074; 212-810-5300. Bob Doll, vice chairman and global CIO for equities. Home page: www.blackrock.com.