How Morristown’s HQ Plaza Will Engage Residents, Visitors with Public-Facing Spaces

How Morristown’s HQ Plaza Will Engage Residents, Visitors with Public-Facing Spaces 600 488 Morris County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC)

How Morristown’s HQ Plaza Will Engage Residents, Visitors with Public-Facing Spaces


The renovation of Morristown’s landmark Headquarters Plaza will look to energize the sprawling concourse that connects three office towers, a Hyatt Regency hotel and a host of retailers and restaurants under the roof of the 1 million-square-foot complex. Not to be overlooked is the idea that the refreshed property will also engage the community in a way that it hasn’t in decades, taking cues from the town’s other recent redevelopment projects.

“We all know — those who have been here for a long time — that the mall was kind of just there,” Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty said in late February, when he joined the property’s owners to unveil the plans for the Speedwell Avenue complex. The new-look plaza, he added, should appeal to people in and outside Morristown.

“It’s open to the public, it’s an experience where the public can mix with the people that work here,” Dougherty said, noting that the work is “energizing the whole streetscape. So it’s going to become more vibrant, which is what our whole downtown has become.”

Slated to begin around May 1, the Gensler-designed project is the latest in a multiyear effort to revitalize Morristown’s central business district, following SJP Properties’ new ground-up office buildings for Deloitte LLP and Valley Bank, plus a third that’s under construction for drugmaker Sanofi. As with those developments and others in town, the goal of the newly minted HQ Plaza is to appeal to not only tenants but to the local community.

“Anybody who knows how the evolution of the town has been is thrilled, and we want to be part of that evolution,” said Brian Fisher, principal partner at Fisher Development Associates.

To that end, the property owned by Fisher’s firm and the Olnick Organization will be updated with an open-concept, daylight-infused concourse with flexible seating, LED lights, conference rooms and WiFi connections, according to Rene Cruz, project director at Gensler. Plans also call for new lounge areas and workspaces throughout the main east-west corridor, under a $7 million project that’s slated to be complete by year-end. It all seeks to invigorate a space that connects to the site’s 650,000 square feet of Class A office space, 100,000 square feet of retail space, the 256-room Hyatt Regency, the 40,000-square-foot Crunch health club and the 10-screen AMC theater atop a 3,000-space parking garage, as well as to the outdoor Pioneer Plaza. Equally important, though, will be the addition of three eateries that will form a new restaurant row along Speedwell Avenue: Masseria Italian Steakhouse, Parkside Tavern and Sushi Lounge.

“HQ Plaza is a centerpiece of one of the most desirable suburban downtowns in the state — seamlessly integrating live, work and play experiences for current and future tenants, as well as the surrounding community,” said Seth Schochet, Olnick’s president. “The abundance of forthcoming restaurant and retail offerings will continue to enhance this stretch of Speedwell Avenue, bolstering Morristown’s profile while also facilitating convenience for our office tenants.”

It will mark a new chapter for Headquarters Plaza, which was conceived in 1968 as an urban renewal project but sat vacant for years after the developer went bankrupt. Fisher and Olnick took over and opened the three-tower complex in 1982, creating the largest collection of high-end office space in a supply-constrained downtown. The renovation also follows the completion of Deloitte’s 110,000-square-foot office building at 110 Morris St., part of SJP Properties’ two-phase M Station project that will also include Sanofi’s new U.S. headquarters that’s slated to open later this year. Also opening recently is Valley Bank’s 120,000-square-foot headquarters at 70 Speedwell Ave., directly across from HQ Plaza, which replaced several vacant buildings as part of a separate SJP project.

“In the state of New Jersey, there’s definitely been a flight to quality, but also a flight to suburban downtowns,” said Reid Brockmeier, principal and co-managing director of Gensler’s Morristown office. “And I think that is what has been driving a lot of this work.”

Brockmeier, whose firm designed all three new SJP buildings, said the projects have several factors in common. For one, they’re open to the community, with setbacks and terraces for tenants and the public to gather. M Station will have a public esplanade. Valley offers the Ethan & the Bean café on the first floor, which is staffed by developmentally challenged employees. HQ Plaza will have outdoor dining at the new restaurants in addition to public space and events at Pioneer Plaza, which was renovated in 2021 with new seating, planter beds and a stage.

Gensler’s projects also rely on low-VOC, carbon-neutral materials and emphasize energy efficiency and natural light. Becky Button, principal and co-managing director of the Morristown-based team, said, “Glass and actual daylight always makes a space nicer.”

Brockmeier thinks all the recent projects have synergy. The Hyatt at HQ Plaza, which Olnick and Fisher also renovated recently with Gensler’s help, can provide rooms for younger workers coming to Deloitte for training. And the overall walkability of Morristown means “they take part in the entire town.”

Olnick and Fisher Development have invested $25 million in HQ Plaza so far, including the hotel renovations and $5 million to create Pioneer Plaza at what was a long-empty concrete space. Brian Fisher said at the presentation that they’ll spend about $7 million for the work on the concourse and the exteriors along Speedwell. The project should only help a property whose office space is already at 90 percent occupancy. HQ Plaza has also signed 14 new leases in the past year, with Fisher noting that there are multiple new tenants coming.

The only downside to Morristown that Button sees is that it still doesn’t have enough office space to keep up with demand. She thinks there are other buildings that could be converted to use their full potential, and “we’d love to see that happen.”

“This is our home, and so we’re very invested in it,” Button said. “It helps when everyone’s really excited about the work, and it’s right here in our back yard, we can see it every day.”

Article courtesy of Real Estate NJ.