C&K Properties aims to bring energy to office building
Newark, NJ (November 16, 2015) - It was late morning on a recent weekday when Kevin Collins stood inside the concourse that runs through 2 Gateway Center in Newark. All was quiet for now, but it wouldn't be long until hundreds of workers poured into the pedestrian plaza on their way to lunch, much as they would during the morning and evening rush hours.
It’s exactly why Collins’ firm, C&K Properties, has sought to reinvent that space over the last two years. That has meant the addition of a permanent art gallery and a new state-of-the-art studio for NJTV, one of its newest tenants, whose nightly newscast can be seen by passersby.
“To the extent that you have street traffic — and you don’t have a great deal of it here — this is really the street,” said Collins, pointing to the pedestrian concourse. “So we focused first on making our part of the street noticeable and pop to the people who come through here.”
REACHING OUT TO THE MASSES
C&K Properties is trying to think outside the box when it comes to luring prospective tenants to 2 Gateway Center. That includes everything from ads in New York periodicals to an audio infomercial on WFAN, to the launch of an app and concierge program to help users navigate available state incentives programs.
“Once people are here, they like it,” C&K managing director Kevin Collins said. “And I would tell you that that’s a larger metaphor for Newark: If I can get people to actually come across the river, they look around and they go, ‘Oh, this is nice.’”
C&K also is actively working to lure the general public by opening up entrances that were previously closed and installed new tables and chairs outside.“We’re trying to advertise that we’re not a closed, gated community,” he said. “It’s not a fortress.”
The new additions are all part of C&K’s effort to reposition the 18-story office tower, as the landlord seeks to fill more than 300,000 square feet in the building. Much of that hit the market recently when Prudential Financial shrunk its footprint in the four-building Gateway complex, shifting employees to a new 20-story office tower nearby.
For C&K and CBRE, its leasing agent, that has meant trying to “bring the community into the complex and the complex out to the community,” said Dudley Ryan, a senior vice president with CBRE.
That’s no easy task in the Gateway buildings, which are connected by pedestrian concourses and linked to Newark Penn Station, a target for critics who have long argued that its design discourages pedestrian traffic in downtown Newark.
But Ryan, who notes that “the whole complex functions from the inside out,” said ownership is countering that with new offerings such as afternoon concerts in the concourse and gallery openings at what is known as The Gateway Project. That’s not to mention the interactive feel of the NJTV studio, which is separated from the pathway by a wall of glass panes.
C&K now hopes to combine those features with upgrades such as a renovated lobby, coffee bar and lounge area. And the owners of the roughly 800,000-square-foot tower have long touted its redundant power infrastructure and its connectivity to Newark’s network of high-speed fiber.
“From an operational perspective, tenants today demand more from their buildings. This building is designed for densification,” Ryan said, pointing to mechanical upgrades and its 19 elevators. “On the other side, it’s the quality of life issues: the café … the gallery exhibits that change intermittently and just things that are generally going on in the lobby.”
C&K and CBRE are now hoping that total package can appeal to tenants. Collins said he is banking on the space attracting more than just the financial services and insurance firms that have traditionally filled the building, largely because he thinks other sectors will benefit from its high-bandwidth connectivity.
He noted that many tech companies aren’t yet large enough to need that kind of space, but users in sectors such as health care, engineering and others “that have large and hungry data-intensive uses would be very good fits for here.”
Becoming a destination for the arts
The Gateway Project, the 25,000-square-foot art gallery inside 2 Gateway Center, has done more than simply provide a diversion for the thousands of workers inside the office complex.
“In addition to the walk-by traffic and the people that come through this building, we have created a destination space for the arts,” said Rebecca Jampol, co-director of The Gateway Project. “So people come here directly to see our exhibitions.”
Exhibitions whose openings have drawn between 600 and 800 people since the space became operational last April, she said. And The Gateway Project is helping to program the space and utilize its nearly 60 artist studios by partnering with entities such as Rutgers University and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
The busiest times for the gallery are during lunch and in the afternoon, Jampol said. But the broader appeal of The Gateway Project has led the organization to keep the gallery open from Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“We’re providing something that people want to learn more about,” she said. “And it gives them a break in the middle of their day that’s really accessible to them.”
“To a certain extent, people look across the river and they go, ‘OK, anybody who doesn’t need to see a client, we’ll put them over there and we’ll keep the pretty stuff in Manhattan,’ ” said Collins, C&K’s managing director for asset management and finance. “But we think (with) the combination of the technological infrastructure in the building and the rest of what Newark is beginning to offer, we think we qualify as a headquarters location.”
Collins said The Gateway Project has worked in concert with the 10,600-square-foot NJTV studio, which opened in May, to help reinvigorate the building. The two spaces, which previously housed a Wells Fargo and another office tenant, “have started sort of feeding off of each other, (with) one becoming content for the other.”
And Collins believes the building is now the focus of the Gateway complex.
“It’s not just that things are for sale here — things go on here. … So this is kind of an activity node inside of a commercial concourse,” he said. “And I think while both of them have been impactful, and either one of them would have been impactful by itself, I think you do get a sum that’s greater than the total parts.”
As a result of the work done at 2 Gateway, Ryan said, “We’re literally competing for just about every deal that’s in the market for Jersey City now, which I think is a huge vote of legitimacy for the (Newark) market. Because we’ve never had large blocks of quality space available in the market. So it’s relatively new, and it’s going well and it’s going to be successful.”
And the building owners aren’t finished when it comes to improvements. Collins said C&K plans to upgrade some of the building’s systems, which he concedes “are not very sexy,” but will help with tenants’ annual operating expenses.
The landlord is also eager to repurpose another area that will soon be vacated by Prudential — a space that’s directly across the concourse from the art gallery. The firm is “talking to a couple groups that we think would be the same kind of a fit…some nontraditional office/retail kind of use” — perhaps a live music venue.
“That’s really our next opportunity to do something that will be noticed by the rest of the city,” he said.
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