Corrections or additions?
This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the January 10,
2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Life in the Fast Lane: Sarnoff
Sarnoff Corporation’s research and development engine
has gone turbo. No longer content with fueling much of the R&D
in the Route 1 corridor, it now aims to develop real estate. Move
over, Forrestal Center, here comes a powerful research park. Make
way, Carnegie Center, Princeton’s getting another office campus.
Ever since the glory days when General David Sarnoff was at the
of television technology, this beehive of techno-talent has been
pretty on 336 acres of prime real estate. The current building dates
back to 1941, when the rest of Route 1 was a cow pasture, before the
office parks sprang up. Sarnoff now has a total of 600,000 square
feet, a very small buildout for
a very big plot, surrounded by sloping green lawns and ballfields.
Meanwhile the company lost the security blanket of its nonprofit
No longer the favorite puppy of RCA, Sarnoff now must scrap for
as the for-profit arm of California-based SRI. The business model
— to spin off
start-ups, while keeping equity and the original employees — is
working. But who knows what the next decade will bring?
It’s time, says CEO James Carnes, to leverage all the assets,
real estate. Building an R&D park would bring in development revenues,
but it would also help Sarnoff attract new employees and house its
own spinoffs. Carnes hopes to break ground in 2003 and aims for a
While some neighborhood opposition has already surfaced, the
development, if approved, could total 3,530,000 square feet with about
varying in height between three and six stories, including a hotel
that fronts on Route 1 and a conference center on a site adjacent
to the railroad tracks. It could have four separate entrances (two
with traffic signals) off the proposed Millstone bypass, but another
version of the plan would not require using the bypass, which has
yet to be approved.
Until last Thursday Carnes kept the plan under wraps, limiting
to Susan Gauff, senior vice president for people and communications;
director of facilities; and Jim Crofton, CFO, plus some technical
people who were in a focus group for the architects.
Dean Lundahl won the development contract for the Advance Group in
March. Based in Bedminster, it is developing two sites at the Carnegie
Center plus some in Trenton and Ewing, and has an office for Lundahl
in the Bovis building at Vaughn and Alexander roads.
Lundahl submitted a concept plan to West Windsor on December 15, and
next will come the general development plan, getting the design of
the building approved, and lining up financial partners. Last
January 4, the company unveiled its proposal to the research staff
and met with the neighbors on Fisher Place. Early in February, Carnes
hopes, it will go to the planning board.
"If we develop it to the maximum we are significantly below the
maximum floor to area ratio allowed in the township," says
The maximum is 30 percent he is proposing 24 percent. "More
have done the development primarily with structured parking garages,
which makes the cost significantly higher but translates into much
more open space. The maximum "impervious" coverage is 50 percent
and Lundahl has asked for 26.5 percent.
Lundahl has signed up Cambridge-based Stubbins Associates Inc. for
the master plan with Ron Ostberg as the lead architect. Rothe-Johnson
of Edison is the co-architect, and Schoor DePalma of Manalapan will do
The Stubbins name carries weight in Princeton because it
was the master planner for the much vaunted Carnegie Center campus.
"With Sarnoff as the anchor, and the rest of the campus feeling
a lot like the Carnegie Center, we think there is a lot of
says Carnes. As the head of the committee that built Penn State’s
new alumni center, Carnes learned that "getting the right
architect is really important."
"Initially we thought we needed a new building — to move
over and bulldoze the old building — but our integrated circuit
facility has a lot of expensive equipment, and much of our business
depends on a continuous output," says Carnes. "We couldn’t
afford to replicate the equipment in a second place and could not
survive with three-to-four month downtime. We were scratching our
heads a lot."
"They came up with a clever way to use the current building —
build a new wing and take out old stuff," says Carnes.
we will probably lose our `new wing,’ which is 30 years old, and we
will keep our old wing, which is 60 years old. It will give us a
new look — a modern building while maintaining current
Carnes hopes the campus will be good for recruitment. "What
we call the War for Talent, developed to an acute degree over the
last couple of years, really got us thinking about how important it
was to have a better facility," says Carnes. "The look and
feel of the building did not reflect the vitality of the organization,
and it was sending the wrong message to the recruits." With its
labs separated by rambling hallways, this building could seem like
a dinosaur to a Silicon Valley techie who is used to working in a
flexible and collaborative environment. "While we depend on
and cross-pollination here, our building is antithetical to that,"
It could also benefit the incubation process. Sarnoff has some notably
successful spinoffs — Orchid BioSciences, Songbird Medical, and
Delsys Pharmaceutical for instance — and the next generation of
spinoffs could be incubated close by the parent. "We are going
to be generating companies on a continuous basis that we hope will
need substantial space and see value in being close to us," says
"In many cases we continue to serve as the development arm of
these companies. But clearly they all want to be their own entities
with their own entrance. That is all part of this plan to have very
separate facilities for different levels of incubation versus mature
"All of the building owners in the Route 1 corridor benefit from
the Sarnoff spinoffs," says David Knights of Picus Associates,
managers of the Forrestal Center.
Other high tech companies could be
housed here as well. "We believe we can attract the brightest
and best to be synergistic in what Sarnoff is doing," says
"Certainly someone has to be the owner of the real estate, but
most of the buildings will be occupied by major corporations."
Their presence will contribute to Princeton’s "critical mass"
of technology-trained workers but could also be a double-edged sword.
Carnes warns that Sarnoff’s tenants might poach recruits from
staff. But he believes the critical mass of people is a big ingredient
in Silicon Valley’s success and can only be good in the long run.
"We also envision a campus with a synergistic supporting
says Carnes, "with infrastructure companies — the headhunters,
accountants, and legal folks.
"There is a huge difference between this and any of the other
parks on the Route 1 strip," says Lundahl, including the
RCN campus and the Merrill Lynch campus in that group. "Sarnoff
is going to control the development process, so they have a vested
interest in being sure this is being done correctly. Sarnoff people
are trying to do this in the right way."
— Barbara Fox
Corporation, 201 Washington Road, CN 5300, Princeton 08543-5300.
James E. Carnes, president & CEO. 609-734-2000; fax, 609-734-2040.
Home page: www.sarnoff.com.
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