New owners pitch former Merck campus in North Jersey as life sciences center

Onyx Equities outlines its plans to convert Merck & Co.’s former headquarters campus in North Jersey into a life sciences center which it is renaming NEST Center.

Woodbridge, New Jersey-based Onyx and its New York-based partner Machine Investment Group acquired the 2 million square foot Merck complex at 2000 Galloping Hill Road in Kenilworth in February for an undisclosed amount. At the time, the companies said they would reuse the 100-acre site for next-generation life science use, but did not provide details of their plans.

On Thursday, Onyx unveiled its plans, saying it would rename the property Northeast Science and Technology, or NEST, Center. Onyx said its goal is to “position the property as a center for research and innovation in the Northeast region of the United States.”

NEST Center co-founder and managing partner John Saraceno is expected to share plans for the research and development campus while attending the BIO International Convention, which takes place June 5-8 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. NEST Center plans to have a booth at this event. Saraceno is also CEO and co-founder of Onyx.

“The biotech industry has a strong demand for turnkey, customizable solutions,” Saraceno said in a statement. “Before NEST, many health technology companies, especially those in research and development, were forced to wait years for an adequate lab and workspace. NEST enables those at the forefront of medicine to focus on finding cures – rather than a desk.”

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has made restoring the state’s position as a leader in the life sciences a cornerstone of his administration, and the NEST Center could bring him closer to that goal. The Garden State, a pharmaceutical hub, has seen a wave of redevelopments from the old headquarters, in part because the consolidation and mergers of a number of drugmakers a few years ago led to the release and to the sale of these sites.

Plans call for NEST Center to include:

• 1.4 million square feet of laboratory buildings;

• 30 acres of redevelopment opportunities specifically zoned for research, laboratory and manufacturing facilities;

• 500,000 square feet of Class A office space;

• A turnkey vivarium, which is a space for keeping and breeding animals or plants for observation or research;

• Redundant utility infrastructure, including a 25 megawatt cogeneration plant; And

• Amenities including a heliport, fitness center, conference centers and green spaces.

Onyx, known as an office owner, has already attracted a life sciences company as a tenant of another property. Kenvue, the billion-dollar consumer spin-off from Johnson & Johnson, recently chose an Onyx property to house its new global headquarters. It will lease 290,000 square feet at Summit East, a former Celgene Corp campus. in Summit, New Jersey, which Onyx purchased in 2021.

Onyx chose to announce NEST at this year’s BIO convention in Boston “because the event has a reputation for bringing together leaders, innovators and investors in the life sciences, biotechnology and medical devices with the aim of commemorating the value that breakthrough biotechnology brings to society,” according to Saraceno.

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