When rancorous opposition in Morris Township made the future too dicey, Honeywell got a lifeline from Mayor Frank.
That’s Frank Druetzler, seven-term mayor of Morris Plains, the future global headquarters of the Fortune 100 company.
“Frank Druetzler, mayor of Morris Plains, contacted us as our re-zoning application for our current Morris Township site slowed,” Rick Kriva, Honeywell’s Vice President of Global Real Estate, said in a statement Tuesday announcing the blockbuster move.
“In Morris Plains, we found a great opportunity that’s close-by, has more office space, and can be fitted with our technologies. We thank Mayor Druetzler for his leadership and assistance.”
“I’m just thrilled,” said the Mayor, who expects downtown merchants will feel the same way once Honeywell’s lunchtime crowd settles in around 2015.
“Part of our job is to keep a viable community. Hopefully, this will help. I’m sure it will,” he said.
Honeywell plans to buy 40 acres of land, a 475,000-square-foot building complex, and a parking garage from a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, McNeil-PPC. It’s on Route 53 just beyond the VFW hall, and an easy walk to the Morris Plains train station and downtown.
Mayor Druetzler said he followed press accounts of Honeywell’s rocky redevelopment saga in Morris Township, and feared the company might revive plans to take its 1,000 jobs to Pennsylvania.
Honeywell received tax incentives from New Jersey to stay here, and intended to redevelop its underused 147-acre site in Morris Township–its home for more than half a century– with a mix of commercial and residential construction. That project would have preserved open space while bringing millions of dollars of capital investment, hundreds of new construction jobs, and millions of dollars in fees and annual taxes for the Township, Rick said in his statement.
But more than 50 public meetings over two years sowed uncertainty, and opponents’ “delay tactics and lawsuits bogged down the process and forced us to rethink our plans,” the official said. “The litigation has created a significant level of risk and uncertainty in the market, leaving us without a reliable and timely way to proceed in Morris Township.”
Morris Township Mayor Peter Mancuso called it “sad to hear this decision” from Honeywell after joint efforts to create an “innovative and pro-active rezoning” of the tract.
“While Morris Township is deeply disappointed in this decision, we, nevertheless, are satisfied that the public process and eventual rezoning was correct and proper for this site in the long term, and will benefit the Township by creating an opportunity for a state of the art, mixed-use corporate campus suited to today’s needs. We will, however, keep all of our options open,” Mayor Mancuso said in a statement.
Mayor Druetzler said it’s too soon to say precisely what impact Honeywell will have on taxes for the 5,500 residents of his borough, dubbed “The Community of Caring.” But he is confident it will be positive.
“It certainly will help,” he said.
The move is subject to approval by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which offered the initial tax breaks under its Grow N.J. Assistance Program.
Morris Plains and Honeywell began talks in the late summer, Mayor Druetzler said.
“It looked like they didn’t have it nailed down. If they were thinking of maybe moving–reports said they were looking at other places in New Jersey and Pennsylvania–I thought, let’s put Morris Plains in the mix. Who knows what can happen? We expressed that if they were looking at us, we would be very happy to have them, and would welcome them,” he said.
Honeywell’s future home in Morris Plains was built by Pfizer to house its health care division. But that division was sold to Johnson & Johnson before the facility was fitted out, Mayor Druetzler said. Adding 1,000 workers to the small borough isn’t hard to envision, he said, noting that Warner Lambert once employed up to 5,000 people in Morris Plains.
Rick Kriva of Honeywell said the Morris Plains headquarters will showcase the company’s energy-efficiency technologies, which comprise more than half of its technology portfolio. And by moving only a few miles, Honeywell will minimize disruptions for employees, he said.
The old and new locations are only two train stops apart on the NJ Transit line to New York.