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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on April 12, 2000. All rights reserved.
Why Merrill Lynch is Bullish on Hopewell
You can’t see how big it is when you drive by. You
can’t even tell how big it is from the aerial photo. The office park
that Merrill Lynch is building in Hopewell is huge, even by Route
1 standards. It is five times as big as Educational Testing Service’s
Rosedale Road campus, which has 1,200 employees on 370 acres. Five
times as big as Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Hopewell site, which might
eventually have up to 1,200 workers on 433 acres. About as big as
the current Carnegie Center, which has 2 million feet of multi-tenant
office space (not counting Summit Bank and the Hyatt) in a dozen buildings
on the east side of Route 1.
By 2002 Merrill Lynch plans to have built 1.8 million square feet
on 130 acres on Scotch Road. The Hopewell campus will have more than
twice as many employees as Merrill Lynch’s Scudders Mill Road campus
does now. Scudders Mill has 2,800 employees in 1.2 million square
feet on 275 acres, compared to the 6,400 people planned for Scotch
Some say the new park, called Southfields, will cause the center of
gravity to shift, moving south from the Plainsboro/West Windsor
area to the Lawrenceville/Hopewell/Ewing area. Leasing in the new
buildings on Alexander Road remains strong, but people are talking
about how much more convenient the southern locations are for commuters
coming from Pennsylvania.
Just what is going up here? Merrill Lynch owns 865 acres from I-95
on the south to Washington Crossing/Pennington Road on the north.
It is building now on one-third of the available space — 130 of
425 acres — on the eastern side of Scotch Road. The property runs
to the railroad tracks at Reed Road. It has another 440 acres on the
west side of Scotch Road. Merrill Lynch broke ground in April, 1999,
and is scheduled to move into its first building in September. Its
last move-in, for building 8, is scheduled for spring 2002.
Perhaps because of on-going hassles with Hopewell Township over development
plans, Merrill Lynch’s spokesperson Joe Cohen emphasizes that the
east side is the only part of the campus that Merrill Lynch aims to
do right now. And with the possible exception of one building, all
the operations here will be confined to back office activities. "Many
of the employees are parts of the technology and business support
teams of Merrill Lynch, and some will be coming from different sites
in New Jersey and Pennsylvania," says Cohen.
The land planning company is Wells Appel, based in Philadelphia and
New Hampshire. Huber Hunt Nichols, of Atlanta, Georgia, is doing the
construction. Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback, and Associates, also
of Atlanta, is the architectural firm, and Philadelphia-based Kling
Lindquist did the engineering.
The 1.8 million square feet of office space — not including the
four parking garages — will have eight office buildings, four
"assembly" buildings, plus outdoor athletic fields and a child
care center. (The total number of buildable feet allowed on the 425
acre east-side property is 3.5 million.) In addition to the 2,000
under-cover parking spaces and 6,000 open air spaces, there will be
shuttle service, probably from both the Princeton Junction and West
Trenton train stations.
The site has been planned in units of four. For every two office buildings
there will be one parking deck and one assembly building containing
all the conference rooms and all the heating and ventilating equipment
for that unit. Three of the assembly buildings will have full-service
employee cafeterias, and one will be an employee fitness center with
snack bar. With this plan, money is saved on HVAC (large units can
serve three buildings) and no one has a long walk to a cafeteria.
Almost everything is connected by a covered walkway.
Retail shops open to the public were talked about in
the early stages but are not in the current plan. "We have a big
project to get done and a time table to do it. We want to be focused
and worry about the west side down the road," says Cohen. "We
really are trying to do a development of a very high caliber, trying
to do everything right."
"We are really working on all the buildings right now, even though
some of the work is still in the ground," says Chris Morante,
construction project manager. For this huge project Huber Hunt Nichols
actually built its own temporary headquarters rather than rent trailers.
About 55 of its employees are supervising 100 subcontractors and nearly
1,000 workers. "To the north and south," says Morante, "we
have utilities that have been installed. One garage has been built
and the second, which will be the biggest, is in progress."
"Each of these office buildings is nothing fancy — it is a
relatively standard project. What makes it difficult, different, and
interesting," says Morante, "is that we have eight of them
and they are being phased in at the same time." A civil engineer
from Clarkson, Class of 1993, Morante is the son of a utility company
worker in Connecticut. Earlier for this construction firm, he worked
on another multi-building project, the campus for AT&T (now Lucent)
Difficulties? "I would call then challenges," says Morante.
Among those challenges are the tight deadlines for the nearly 100
subcontractors and the need for things to match. "Some of our
subcontractors need to be the same for every building," he says.
"For electrical it doesn’t matter, but for certain things it’s
important to maintain the same manufacturers."
Buildings are constructed of precast concrete and Glengery brick.
"Each building has its own shape and little things that try to
make it unique, except for 2 and 3, which are mirror images,"
says Morante. Buildings differ in number of stories (three or four),
in details in the precast concrete at the top level, and in their
entries. Building 4 has a very high glass atrium, Building 5 has two
2-story atriums with fancy stair towers, and Buildings 2 and 3 have
skylights. Lobbies also vary according to wood paneling, layout, and
Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback, and Associates has designed all of
Merrill Lynch’s campuses since the Scudders Mill project, and Gary
Fowler is the studio principal for the Hopewell campus. A native of
Little Rock, he went to Tulane University, Class of 1978. The first
campus was in Jacksonville in 1990 for ML Credit Corp., an insurance
group; it consists of five buildings and 750,000 square feet.
The second campus, in the Denver suburb of Englewood, is made of precast
concrete that matches the Colorado rose sandstone, and it won a national
For the Hopewell campus, Fowler says he spent a lot of time on the
Princeton University campus ("one of the most beautiful campuses
in the country") and also at Duke, Stanford, the University of
Colorado, Forrestal Village, and Forrestal Center. "We walked
the place and analyzed what things are successful and aren’t,"
"It is enormous. You can’t fathom how big it is from pictures,"
says Fowler of the Hopewell campus. He describes it starting with
the entrance from Scotch Road that he calls Main Street Merrill Lynch.
On the left is "the Central Park space," with its natural
stand of trees and wetlands. Temporary drainoff ponds show up on the
aerial photographs, but they will be reconfigured into ponds with
fountains and an outdoor amphitheater. On the right, as yet unbuilt,
will be Buildings 8 and 7, separated by Assembly D, a health club.
Across the park to the left, accessible from another road, is Building
1, Assembly A, and garage A. These are the first buildings to be finished
and September is their targeted move-in date.
The next big area is called the Town Center. "We tried to think
about what a New England town would be like," says Fowler. The
township did not encourage the idea of actual open-to-the-public retail
shops, but Buildings 2 and 3 (mirror images in an L shape) face each
other and have arcades that serve as pedestrian walkways. Here will
be the post office, a hair salon, a medical suite, and the human resources
department. Employees will be able to parallel park here to visit
these areas. A larger than life size bull sculpture will adorn the
Town Center, which will also have an outdoor dining area.
Between Building 6 and Building 5 — the very long building visible
in the photographs — will be the largest cafeteria. Cars will
be able to actually drive under Building 5 from Main Street to the
parking lots in back.
The quadrangle formed by Buildings 3, 4, and 5 looks deliberately
academic, says Fowler. At the end of the quadrangle, in a big plaza,
is the one building scheduled to receive visitors, Building 4. At
Building 4 will be three flagpoles, visitors parking, and a huge four-story
To the south of Building 4 are tennis courts, basketball and volley
ball courts, and softball and soccer fields — all lighted so they
can be used at night. The child care facility goes on the north side
of this project, and ground has not been broken for it. This 12,000
square foot center will be run by Bright Horizons Family Solutions,
which operates more than 260 family centers in 38 states.
Open arcades go from building to building around the perimeter and
a bridge connects Buildings 2 and 3. But employees will use the exterior
loop road to get to and from work. "It was designed as a country
lane, so you get fantastic views of the woodlands in the morning,
and then you peel off to your parking lot," says Fowler. Among
the ways the planners tried to preserve the natural environment were
taking down no trees, planting the ponds with grasses to house birds,
using biofilters for detention water, carefully using existing well
water for irrigation, and controlling lights to prevent sky glare.
"It may be the only chance in our lives to build 12 buildings
at one time," says Fowler. "It is a real exciting opportunity
to create a place memorable and enjoyable for the people to be in."
Mark Hill thinks Ewing is going to be a great opportunity
for the right companies — those that want to stay away from Route
1 and be convenient to employees who live in Pennsylvania. For Hilton
Realty he is leasing new construction on Sylvia Street — 1.7 miles
from Exit 2 of I-295, directly across the street from New Jersey Manufacturing
Insurance, just down the street from Trenton Country Club, adjacent
to the Katzenbach School for the Deaf. Almost adjacent is the West
Trenton train station, which serves Septa trains from Philadelphia.
There is even talk about adding passenger service to the freight lines
that now runs from West Trenton past Merrill Lynch’s campus on Reed
Road and into Hopewell. Also — a big also — it is just 1.7
miles from the Atchley tract, the township’s best hope for a fabulous
development. RCN is looking at it now.
Also on Sylvia Street is American Enterprise Park, with ICI Finishes
and Airborne. Hilton’s first two buildings, called Ewing Commerce
Park, are single story, with 30,000 square feet each, and are leasing
at $14 net for general office use. "We’re seeing very strong activity,"
says Hill. Phase II, not yet approved, is a three-story 82,000 square
The utilitarian buildings, designed by Julie Smith of Witherspoon
Street-based KSS Architects, are made of brick with bronze banding
through the window area. "We feel we have an advantageous price
and that this fills a void," says Hill. "The location is very
good with the proximity to the city of Trenton and to the Pennsylvania
labor force. Many owners want to be in New Jersey but don’t want to
drive on Route 1. Those are some of the people we are getting."
Hilton Realty owns close to 4 million square feet, including Research
Park and Princeton Windsor Business Park, where it also doing new
construction. Any of their tenants can move from one building to another
without paying a penalty on the lease.
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