New heights for Everest as insurer inks North Jersey’s largest lease deal of 2019

<em>Warren Corporate Center in Warren Township and Vision Real Estate Partners founder and managing partner Samuel Morreale (courtesy of Vision Real Estate Partners and Rubenstein Partners).</em>
Warren Corporate Center in Warren Township and Vision Real Estate Partners founder and managing partner Samuel Morreale (courtesy of Vision Real Estate Partners and Rubenstein Partners).

In what amounts to the largest lease in Northern New Jersey so far this year, Everest Reinsurance has inked a deal for 315,000 square feet at the Warren Corporate Center in Somerset County.

The Bermuda-based reinsurance company is set to relocate from its current home at 77 Martinsville Road in Liberty Corner just down I-78 to an 820,000-square-foot, five-building office park in nearby Warren owned by Vision Real Estate Partners and Rubenstein Partners.

Samuel Morreale, a founder and managing partner of Mountain Lakes-based Vision, said that Everest signed its lease on July 3. Cushman & Wakefield represented Vision and Philadelphia-based Rubenstein on the deal, while CBRE took the lead for Everest, which will occupy 100 and 200 Warren Corporate Center Drive. The two buildings will be connected by a four-story glass atrium built by the joint venture.

“Historically, the property has been the headquarters for Alcatel-Lucent, consumer services groups [and] it has been a major global facility for Citicorp. Now we have Everest Reinsurance taking a major portion of the campus,” Morreale told The Real Deal. “We think it will [become a] headquarters and major regional facility for other agencies. Not only the Fortune 500, but some of the growing entrepreneurial companies in and around New Jersey.”

Vision and Rubenstein, the latter having just acquired a Stamford office building for $163 million, purchased the corporate campus in Warren for $136 million in March 2016 from Northwestern Mutual Real Estate after receiving $123 million in acquisition financing from Bank of America.

Since that time, the joint venture has invested more than $25 million repositioning the 176-acre complex from a single-tenant property to a multi-tenant office park. In October 2017, Vision and Rubenstein broke ground on a new 20,000-square-foot amenity building called Warren Hill that was finished late last year. Among its upgrades are conference space, a full-size indoor basketball court and a fitness center.

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“The amenity building, and the concept of amenity buildings, we think of it [as] similar to the way that peer universities are organized and the notion of the old student centers being the true hub of the campus, integrating both social, academic and recreation,” Morreale said. “The hospitality-oriented approach to amenities is becoming a new standard that sets properties like Warren Corporate Center apart from others.”

Morreale added that Vision and Rubenstein will reposition 300 Warren Corporate Center Drive for multi-tenancy and work to reposition additional buildings as needed. The joint venture is now marketing 520,000 square feet at the complex.

Citibank, which was the previous sole tenant at the Warren Corporate Center, opted not to renew a lease that expired at the end of June. The campus itself was built for Lucent Technologies in 1994 and released to the financial services giant in 2004.

Prior to Everest’s deal at Warren Corporate Center, the largest lease transaction in Northern New Jersey this year was signed by an unnamed entity at 194 Wood Avenue South in Iselin for 168,795 square feet, according to data by CBRE.

A recent market report from Newmark Knight Frank found that average asking rents for Class A space in the Somerset/I-78 submarket reached $32.04 per-square-foot during the second quarter of this year.