Office-Space-New-Jersey

The pharmaceutical industry used to be a dominating force in New Jersey commerce.

However, over the last twenty years times have certainly changed. Today we see the offices these international, billion dollar pharmaceutical producers now sitting vacant. There are a few factors responsible for big pharma’s disappearance from New Jersey. The billowing tech industry is partially responsible for the evaporation of old school biotech. Companies choosing to cut costs and outsource to India and Asia is another reason. Yet, figuring out what to do with these vast, empty New Jersey office campuses is another predicament.

New Jersey is in search of a new nickname. “The Nation’s Medicine Chest” was the former home to several pharmaceutical companies including Novo Nordisk and Roche. Several pharma companies have merged, downsized, and relocated. In 2009, New York-based Pfizer bought Wisconsin-based Wyeth. Merck reduced its workforce by 15% when it purchased Schering-Plough formerly based in Summit, New Jersey. Many displaced workers have been forced to change careers. Kim Haas, a former drug designer for Wyeth and Sanofi called the transition “a bloodbath” when the drug giant abandoned its Malven, PA campus (located on the Jersey border) in 2010.

According to James W. Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, the dissipation of New Jersey’s pharmaceutical industry is due to the fact that biotech is attempting to reformat its environment to be more academically reflective. They’re moving their campuses to places like the Bay Area, Cambridge, and Manhattan where science technology is thriving in nearby universities.

So, the question remains - - what’s to become of these massive, deserted buildings? In December, Roche, the Swiss mega drug manufacturer and creator of Valium, shut down its 2 million square foot campus in Nutley, NJ. When Genentech acquired Roche in 2009 it moved to San Francisco and gradually decreased its New Jersey presence.

"Our mission for Roche is to sell the entire site at one time. So, while we have a lot of various interest in portions of the site, those that are looking at the site to purchase as a single entity are large, financially capable, integrated, multidisciplinary development-type companies." Said Thomas Stanton, managing director of JLL, the real estate firm marketing Roche’s campus for NorthJersey.com. Stanton has toured the property to over 35 prospective buyers, but hasn’t received any bids. In the meantime, JLL is leasing a couple of the 13 buildings to small businesses. The space is perfect for biotech start-ups that need minimal lab space, but unfortunately due to financial reasons, JLL must hold out for a big spender.