Ewing: Hilton

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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on April 12, 2000. All rights reserved.

Why Merrill Lynch is Bullish on Hopewell

E-mail: BarbaraFox@princetoninfo.com

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

Road.

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)

in Warren.

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

plantings.

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

AIA award.

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,"

says Fowler.

"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

glass atrium.

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."

Top Of Page
Ewing: Hilton

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

foot building.

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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