At Thursday’s groundbreaking for the future headquarters of Valley National Bank, CEO Ira Robbins grinned and noted how Wayne Township renamed a street for the bank when it set up shop there.
The odds of Speedwell Avenue becoming Valley Avenue are pretty remote, Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty responded.
An even bigger wager is whether giant corporate headquarters have a future, after a pandemic that has accustomed employees to the traffic-free convenience of telecommuting.
Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin. Click/hover on images for captions:
Steve Pozycki, founder and CEO of SJP Properties, is banking on it. His New York-based company has placed two big bets in Morristown, as developer of the Valley National project and, around the corner on Morris Street, of M Station, future regional headquarters of the Deloitte accounting firm.
“It’s a perfect time, if you want to get employees back to work, you want to bring them into a great ecosystem that is ripe for office use. And these tenants are ecstatic about being in Morristown,” Pozycki said, citing the downtown’s amenities and train station.
DeLoitte is anticipated to move into its new six-story building this year, adjacent to a traffic roundabout at Morris and Spring streets that is on schedule for completion in October, Pozycki said.
A second, seven-floor office building on the M Station property–a former strip mall owned by Scotto Properties, also partners in the bank project–has town approvals. But no construction plans or tenants have been announced.
“We have a lot of interested parties,” Pozycki said.
When completed next spring, the Valley National headquarters will be the home office for 660 bank employees, and double as a training center for hundreds more, Valley National CEO Ira Robbins said.
As the sun danced in and out of puffy clouds, dozens gathered for brief speeches outside the Hyatt Regency, across from the construction site. When a breeze toppled a row of ceremonial shovels, Dougherty insisted it meant good luck.
“It is crucially important to our future that we invest in our downtown. And investments like Valley National are second to none,” the mayor said. Working with SJP Properties has been “a home run,” he added, predicting these projects will bring jobs for local youths.
“The future is bright. People may say it’s a tough world we’re living in, the economy is crazy, New Jersey’s a tough state.
“But you know what? We’re doing it here in Morristown, and we’re grateful for the investment we’re getting…thank you for your investment in our community,” Dougherty, re-elected for a fourth term last year, said.
Council members Stefan Armington, Sandi Mayer, David Silva and Nathan Umbriac joined the mayor and developers in tossing shovel-loads of dirt at photographers, busily snapping the obligatory pictures.
Robbins’ son Ari, 12, enjoyed the view from the cockpit of an enormous earth-mover.
‘A REAL DOWNTOWN’
Designed by the Gensler architectural firm to incorporate many energy-saving features, the six-story, 125,000-square-foot bank structure will replace Olive Lucy’s, Pazzo Pazzo and Danny’s Pub, all demolished over the winter. Commercial storefronts are envisioned for th ground level.
“We’ve been a New Jersey community bank for 95 years, and to stay in New Jersey, in a local community, is really important to us,” Robbins said.
“Morristown is a business-friendly community that enabled us to have the atmosphere and environment of a real downtown…when we think about the next hundred years of Valley, we couldn’t think of a better location to continue the growth story of who we are as an organization.”
Robbins thanked the Scotto brothers, Pozycki and the mayor. Details of the bank’s parking arrangement with the Headquarters Plaza garage still are being worked out, he said.
Established in Passaic County, Valley National is New Jersey’s largest bank and 29th biggest in the country, and also has operations in the United Kingdom, Robbins said.
As for renaming Speedwell Avenue–home of Historic Speedwell, birthplace of the telegraph–Morristown is off the hook.
“It’s a state-owned road,” Dougherty told the crowd, “and I know how difficult it is to get a permit from the state. So getting a name change for this is going to be nearly impossible.”