Could Norwalk’s Glover Avenue be the proverbial next big thing in Fairfield’s commercial real estate market? Several projects are underway that seem to point in that direction.
“We’re looking to create a multiuse ecosystem that’s comparable to (Stamford’s) Harbor Point, a 24-hour live-work-play dynamic,” said Ted Ferrarone, chief operating officer at Building and Land Technology, the Stamford-based developer of both Harbor Point and the Glover Avenue properties.
The centerpiece of the Norwalk activity is 45 Glover Ave., branded by BLT as The Towers at Merritt River. Built in 2001 as the headquarters for what was then management consulting firm Hewitt Associates — the firm in 2010 was acquired by Aon Corp. to become Aon Hewitt – the eight-floor building grew to house Xerox and offices for Westport-headquartered Bridgewater Associates as well.
Both Aon Hewitt – whose technology—enabled benefits and human resources platform was acquired in February by private equity firm Blackstone Group in a deal valued at approximately $4.8 billion — and Xerox relocated to Norwalk’s 201 Merritt 7 earlier this year. Building and Land Technology was left with 173,164 square feet of rentable space available at 45 Glover, including the second, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth floors, the last of which includes a 3,000-square-foot terrace.
Simply standing by and waiting for other corporate tenants to move in was not an option, Ferrarone said. Instead, the developer has turned to the New York City office of Gensler, the architecture, design, planning and consulting firm, which is drafting plans to overhaul the building to bring it in line with “what people are looking for,” Ferrarone said.
That includes a new café, conference center and health facility, as well as a more “open space” approach to its office layouts, he said. “It’s the transformation of what was a traditional, 100 percent office location to a mixed-use building.”
Ferrarone also noted that the building is essentially hitting the open market for the first time. “A lot of people have never been in the building,” he said. “And they’re not aware of what it has to offer.”
Tim Rorick, senior managing director in the Stamford office of Newmark Knight Frank, the commercial real estate brokerage, touted such other features at 45 Glover as its outdoor patio and terraces, rooftop helipad and proximity to the Merritt Parkway and Route 7 as key selling points. “It’s going to be even more incredible” when renovations are done, he said, noting that a target date for completion has not been set.
“It’s a big block of space in a very high-quality building with the right team in place, BLT/Gensler,” Rorick said. “They’re taking something that was delivered in 2001 and making it into something that works in 2017.”
While interior demolition has been completed, renovation plans will be finalized once new tenants are signed, the building’s owner said.
In the meantime, Bridgewater, the world’s largest hedge fund with some $122.2 billion in assets under management, for the past few years has flirted with opening an office in Stamford’s Harbor Point complex at 2200 Atlantic St. In 2014 it pulled out of a $750 million proposal to construct an 850,000-square-foot office building there, citing time constraints and cost factors.
But according to sources who requested anonymity, Bridgewater, which also has an office in Wilton, may yet take space in Harbor Point. Building and Land Technology officials declined to comment, while Bridgewater did not return calls for comment.
Meanwhile, other Glover Avenue properties owned by BLT are also undergoing a transformation. The developer is upgrading 10 Glover Ave., once a single-tenant medical office building, for use for another single tenant, either medical or office. The building interior has been demolished to open up the 10,372-square-foot space.
Space at 20 Glover Ave. is also on the market. Once the headquarters of Caldor Inc., the discount department store chain, the building has 92,856 square feet of contiguous space available, spread across six floors ranging in size from the 5,033-square-foot first floor to the 21,710-square-foot third floor.
On the residential side of the emerging mixed-use complex are 1 Glover Ave., being marketed as a boutique community with 132 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments, and 150 Glover Ave., consisting of 235 rental units.
All of this work is going on as the nearby Merritt 7 Metro-North train station is undergoing multimillion-dollar renovations to its bridge and platform and expansion of its parking.
“There’s a lot of work being done there,” Ferrarone said of his company’s Glover Avenue makeover. “When it’s finished, it should really be something.”