Data Infrastructure Positions Newark to Emerge as a Tech Sector Hub

by Jaime Lackey

Miles Berger, The Berger Organization

For Newark, New Jersey, the well-documented trend toward urbanism and the emergence of creative solutions that position older properties to serve modern needs are creating strong momentum. At a time when leasing activity is ticking upward across the city’s diverse tenant base, it also is becoming clear that Newark’s superior data capacity positions the city to become a hub for tech start-ups and, ultimately, a national hub for the tech sector.

For Millennials, Old is “In”

According to new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, it is estimated that about 53.5 million millennials (adults aged 18 to 34) are part of the U.S. workforce today. Companies run by or interested in attracting millennials — whether focused on technology or any other sector — are gravitating to 24/7 downtown or urban locations. And they are seeking smart, collaborative work spaces.

The result? Old is “in” — at least when it comes to tenant preferences for office space. At The Berger Organization, we are stripping antiquated fit-outs and tapping into the popularity of exposed ductwork, open floor plans and loft-inspired architectural elements. The resulting environments speak to modern desires and individual company cultures, while paying homage to their urban settings. The recent build-out of Teach for America’s space at our The Robert Treat Center illustrates this trend.

When Teach for America relocated its offices last year to the 15-story building at 50 Park Place, the end goal was to configure the space to meet the unique needs of this organization. Teach for America’s office encompasses about 9,000 square feet and serves as a hub in Newark for dozens of full-time staffers, and numerous corps members and alumni.

We retrofitted the space to create an open floor plan that lets in light and allows for the free flow of interaction between employees. In this non-hierarchical space, members sit at bench-style seating that is ideal for teams working on specific projects. Individual space is open, and only one closed-door office exists in the entire space, and that office belongs to the executive director.

Collaborative areas include a book nook with casual seating and a kitchen area. There are also about a dozen cubicles with low partitions to allow for some privacy. On the first floor, a more formal meeting area was created. When Teach for America has a full house for events such as professional development sessions, staff holiday party or casual meetings, employees utilize the larger meeting area. The end result is an attractive, flexible modern work environment that fosters the strong teamwork for which Teach for America is known.

Beyond aesthetics and function, older buildings today also can compete with modern product when it comes to commercial building technology. Thanks to advances in fiber optic-based communications, even the many century-old properties in Newark can offer the same data and communications capabilities as newly constructed properties. For example, The Berger Organization now offers Lightpath by Cablevision throughout our Newark portfolio, providing advanced Ethernet-based data, Internet, voice and video transport solutions.

Leveraging High-Tech Infrastructure

Centrally located on the Northeast corridor, just 15 minutes by train to Manhattan, Newark has long served as a magnet for utilities and communications companies. As these organizations invested in their own infrastructure, the city asked them to install extra capacity. As such, Newark’s commercial inventory today sits atop a treasure trove of unused “dark” fiber.

Local government is making a concerted effort to leverage these resources to encourage small technology companies to establish and grow in the city. The corporate community is also on board, as illustrated by the recent launch of Newark Venture Partners, a $50 million early-stage technology venture fund supported by some of the city’s top corporate leaders (such as Audible.com and Prudential Financial).

Property owners are augmenting Newark’s evolving reputation as a magnet for technology-focused organizations. At 765 Broad Street, our firm is creating a 30,000-square-foot, full-floor technology co-working center. The building, to be delivered as move-in ready in spring 2016, will include 1,500-square-foot secure, private offices and a 3,000-square-foot collaborative common area with WiFi, lounge-style seating areas, a snack and coffee bar, flat-screen televisions, a pool table and more. At the same time, we are rebranding the entire, 200,000-square-foot building as the Newark Technology and Business Center.

Newark’s momentum shows no sign of slowing. According to Cushman & Wakefield, office leasing activity in the city totaled 223,000 square feet through mid-year 2015. This included 160,000 square feet in the second quarter alone, marking the submarket’s strongest quarter of new leasing activity in more than three years.

Within this very positive context, it is clear that the city’s stakeholders — in both the public and private sectors — are taking full advantage of this paradigm shift that will influence how office space is used, and built out, for years to come.

— By Miles Berger, Chairman and CEO, The Berger Organization. This article originally appeared in the November/December 2015 issue of Northeast Real Estate Business magazine.

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