About GenslerOnCities

What makes cities tick? GenslerOnCities explores the planning, design, and the potential futures of urban landscapes.

Search GenslerOn
Cities Topics
Connect with Us
« Town Square: San Diego | Main | Shanghai Tower Tops Out »

The Future of New Jersey: Rethinking the Possibilities for the Suburban Campus

Bayer Headquarters, Whippany, New Jersey. Image © Gensler

Urbanization is upon us, and in a somewhat ironic twist, many of the corporations providing solutions to the impact of this and other global megatrends are located in suburban New Jersey campuses.

Having spent most of my career in Morristown working with New Jersey based Fortune 500 corporations, I have seen these companies come, go, merge, and grow. Our state’s corporate centers of innovation in the life sciences, technology, and chemical industries have traditionally drawn highly educated people to suburban campuses and transit hubs like Morristown.

This makes me think: Will we begin to see a major shift away from these hubs and back to urban centers? Will it become increasingly challenging for places like central and northern New Jersey to attract the next generation of talent to the suburbs? Or, will places like Morristown embrace the challenge of keeping our suburbs relevant and our communities working together to imagine a future that celebrates what makes the suburbs unique, beautiful, and sustainable?

Bayer Headquarters, Whippany, New Jersey. Image © Gensler

Utilizing Existing Real Estate

In the 1980’s, farmlands in the Garden State became Pharmaland, as campuses were built to bring together the research and manufacturing processes large pharmaceutical companies need. Today, with over 37 million square feet of vacant real estate in northern and central New Jersey, we have a significant challenge to keep these aging facilities relevant.

I become energized when there is an opportunity to breathe new life into a building or campus; it’s a chance to support the changing nature of work. Our Morristown office is doing this with many of our ongoing projects. We are currently preparing punch lists for the soon to be the completed East Coast headquarters of Bayer Healthcare.

The new Bayer Headquarters will occupy the former Alcatel-Lucent campus in Whippany. Utilizing this existing site and its infrastructure is more time efficient than building a new headquarters from scratch. Designed around a high-performance workplace, the headquarters will foster productivity while taking into account the health and wellbeing of Bayer employees. An open, day-lit work environment provides views to the outdoors and promotes physical activity with intercommunicating stairs and a centralized work cafe on each floor. Outdoor walking trails are easily accessible, as is a Wi-Fi equipped dining and work terrace and a repurposed building housing a fitness center. This campus will consolidate 2,400 employees from four different sites, celebrating the spirit of collaboration at the center of Bayer’s culture.

Bayer Headquarters, Whippany, New Jersey. Image © Gensler

Community Engagement

The connection of people and great ideas can make a difference in New Jersey. It is encouraging to see academia and industry unite via the Council on Innovation, and Rutgers’ work with UMDNJ under the NJ Medical and Health Education Restructuring Act. Partnerships like these can advance New Jersey’s status as the Innovation State. Can these affiliations also provide new adjacencies for campus transformations? Why not? In Rochester, New York, the large Kodak corporate campus has shifted to a mixed-use campus, which is shared with a local community college.

It takes the collaboration of developers, businesses, and municipalities to make some big decisions about the future of our communities. The repurposing of aging, single tenant campuses can be a controversial mission. But, forums like the recent event, Reinventing New Jersey’s Obsolete Suburban Office Campus held at Rutgers’ Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning & Public Policy and sponsored by the New Jersey League of Municipalities Educational Foundation, are a great way of keeping this conversation moving forward.

At Gensler, we believe design can help communities become stronger, smarter, better places to live, work, learn and play. This is why we support initiatives led by the mayor of Morristown and the city’s Planning Division, which hosted a series of interactive workshops about our town’s Master Plan in early 2013. Our hands-on creation of a Pop-Up shop ‘Design Studio’ facilitated a community open house for idea creation. It is also why we continue to partner with our clients and real estate industry colleagues to approach ways to rethink the use of the suburban campuses in our state.

People with passion and vision can make a difference. I am excited about the future of New Jersey!

Brenda Nyce-Taylor is a Design Principal and Co-Managing Director of Gensler's Morristown, NJ office. With over 25 years of workplace experience, Brenda has designed numerous suburban corporate headquarters' interiors with an inside-out design approach. Much of her work has been with clients in the pharmaceutical and science-based consumer products industries. Brenda's positive spirit and collaborative approach are indicative of her passion to create inspiring spaces for people to work, learn and interact. Contact her at brenda_nyce-taylor@gensler.com.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.