Venture buys last buildable Giralda Farms land as Madison strives to encourage redevelopment

Venture buys last buildable Giralda Farms land as Madison strives to encourage redevelopment

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After acquiring the last buildable site at the Madison's Giralda Farms campus, a team of high-profile developers is now weighing its options for the historic estate-turned-office park.

The joint venture of Normandy Real Estate Partners, MRY Associates and an entity sponsored by The Hampshire Cos. announced Tuesday it had purchased the 40-acre site. While it sits in an area that has become a hub for Fortune 500 office space in recent decades, recent moves by local officials have expanded the potential for the 300-acre campus.

Namely, the borough government amended its land use guidelines last fall after interviewing the users at Giralda Farms and finding out what they needed to stay and grow there, Borough Administrator Ray Codey said. The reason: Borough officials did not want to be left with a glut of large office campuses like many other towns in North Jersey.

“A lot of them were looking for different parking ratios and other enhancements,” Codey said. “We also asked them what uses other than office buildings would be compatible with their uses. So, based on that, we went through a planning exercise and changed the zoning up there to be more flexible.

“Our planning board is very progressive that way, so we got out in front of it.”

That means the site and the campus can now support other uses, such as a hotel, a farm-to-table restaurant and a conference center, he said.

Executives with the joint venture that acquired the site only said they’re now in the planning stages.

“This property deserves the highest standard of planning and development — which this partnership is uniquely positioned to deliver,” Mark Yeager, founder and principal of MRY Associates, said in a prepared statement. “Along with Normandy Real Estate Partners and HP Giralda 2014 LLC, we are carefully evaluating our development strategy for the site and look forward to participating in the next era of Giralda Farms.”

To some degree, the bucolic campus off Route 124 is in a state of transition. Global shipping company Maersk Inc. sold its longtime headquarters at 2 Giralda Farms for $53 million last summer after moving to Florham Park; the space has since been leased to Merck.

It’s also a campus whose largest building is currently empty. Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. last year sold its 463,000-square-foot property at 5 Giralda Farms, the onetime home of its former animal health unit, to Lincoln Equities Group and a group of private investors

“To find a single-purpose user for a building that’s already been in the market for a while is a challenge,” Codey said. “So we’ve met with the Lincoln Equities people about our flexibility in terms of them converting the building to a multitenant occupancy.”

The acquisition announced Tuesday occurred simultaneously with the preservation of 136 acres in Chatham Township, located directly across Dodge Drive from the property via a historic open space transaction led by the Open Space Institute, according to a news release. The newly preserved green space will become an extension of the Loantaka Brook Reservation and offer an expansion of the amenity adjacent to Giralda Farms.

“We’re thrilled to have acquired the last developable parcel in one of the most attractive and sought-after locations in the metropolitan area,” said Giorgios Vlamis, a partner at Normandy Real Estate Partners.“This is a highly visible and easily accessible site surrounded by beautiful open space and adjacent to an exceptional range of recreational, cultural and business resources.” 

The most recent property sale was part of a deal brokered by HFF, which touted it as the largest sale, by acreage, in 2014. The HFF team included Jose Cruz, Kevin O’Hearn, Marc Duval and Andrew Scandalios.

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