Onyx ready to unveil ‘healthiest building in N.J.’ (SLIDESHOW)

Firm says its $50M improvement of 340 Mt. Kemble Ave. was upgraded during pandemic to include best safety features

It wasn’t long after offices in the state were closed for the pandemic that developers began thinking about what they would look like when they reopened.

The always envisioned “office of the future” was now the “office of the present.” And it would require health and safety features that went far beyond any pre-pandemic planning.

Onyx Equities is ready to unveil such a building.

The company will announce this week that it has completed its $50 million capital improvement plan at 340 Mt. Kemble Ave. in Morristown, a Class A+ office property it is now calling the healthiest building in the state.

Why? The renovation, which began in early 2019, was adjusted during the pandemic to include two COVID-related updates that Onyx officials feel separate it from all others.

  • The building has separate HVAC systems for each company, which it feels will set a new standard of air quality and circulation;
  • The company formed a partnership with Hackensack Meridian Health to develop the appropriate protocols to reopen and maintain operations in the most health-conscious manner possible.

Onyx co-founder and Managing Principal John Saraceno said the firm always has been about safety.

“We were one of the first companies in the country to commit to a high-discipline environmental safety program — to the extent that we developed the Keeping America Safe ‘Seal of Approval’ certification with Hackensack Meridian Health,” he said.

Onyx has been betting big on suburban office for a while — a gamble that may pay off well post-pandemic, as more companies are looking to both escape the bigger cities or establish satellite offices.

If 340 Mt. Kemble Ave. is any indication, Onyx properties may have a lot to offer.

At more than $125 per square foot, Saraceno said the upgrade is the most significant redevelopment project in the developer’s entire portfolio. The amenities include a lot more than just a better HVAC system.

Saraceno said the goal was to create the most modern, amenitized urban/suburban office property in New Jersey through base building and landscape improvements. There is an entirely new façade and windows, new roof, completely reimagined site and landscape plan, and a more than 25,000-square-foot, newly designed amenity wing.

Along with the new cleanliness standards, Onyx also launched a Well Partnership with Better Spaces, a digital and in-person workplace well-being application that provides fitness, health and productivity support and solutions, to help its employees and tenants stay connected, resilient and productive.

“Our focus on repositioning office assets is based on the premise that New Jersey’s fundamental appeal will always support a community of diverse and esteemed companies who will settle for nothing less than the best office space,” Saraceno said.

“There always are a limited number of premier locations, and we raise them to meet their potential through a sum of many considerations and factors. Post-COVID, we can add one more variable: supporting our tenants as they create the tools to bring people back to the office.”

This type of thinking isn’t surprising.

In May of last year, Onyx implemented its “COVID-19 Prevention and Response Protocol for Commercial Properties” — the first study of its kind in New Jersey.

Saraceno said it was a best-practices operating manual developed in consultation with an environmental hygienist and other health care professionals. That type of thinking continues today, he said.

“As we approach the reentry phase of the pandemic’s evolution, Onyx will lead businesses on the way out of quarantine just as we did on the way in,” he said.