HQ Plaza: Well-known Morristown mixed-use site details final phase of much-needed transformation

Open (and well-lit) community meeting area on inside and new restaurant options facing bustling Morristown will bring new life (and vibrancy) to complex that first opened in 1980

Here’s the beauty of the new indoor garden community gathering area that will soon be the centerpiece of what is now being called HQ Plaza in Morristown: It not only will be a much-needed upgrade and meeting space for the tenants of the approximately 650,000 square feet of office — it aims to be a drawing point for an already-surging city.

The area, created by the esteemed architecture firm Gensler, will feature a variety of seating areas and conference rooms — creating an ability for the tenants and those in the city to gather, from small meetings to big events or just a happy hour-type atmosphere.

More so, they will be do it in a well-lit, inviting area that — for anyone who has been in Headquarters Plaza over the past four decades will attest — is a stark contrast to the poorly lit, walled-over concourse area that seemingly only served the purpose of being a (confusing) walkway to the parking garage.

Even more, the upgrade will include a number of new restaurants, including Masseria by Joe Cetrulo (an upscale Italian steakhouse), Sushi Lounge and Parkside Tavern — with more to be announced on what is being called a restaurant row.

The $32 million renovation — the latest in a series that began a few years back — is expected to begin in spring and could be finished by as soon as the end of the year.

Brian Fisher, principal partner at Fisher Development Associates (which owns and operates the complex along with the Olnick Organization) said the complex (which opened in 1980) was in need of an upgrade that matched the transformation of the town to a destination for retail, residences, arts and entertainment that matches areas such as Montclair or Red Bank.

“When we first built this, Morristown was a transit community,” Fisher said. “Now, you’ve got great places to live and eat and shows to see. And you’ve got businesses coming in.

“When we looked at what the mayor (Tim Dougherty) and the town council have done in the past decade to grow this community, we knew we really needed to raise ourselves up to that same level.”

Fisher and Olnick Organization President Seth Schochet said creating a center space for the community is the last step in a process that included a renovation of the Hyatt Regency and much of the complex, including the recent creation of Pioneer Park, which serves as an outdoor meeting place for the community.

And, while the new restaurants add to the numerous dining areas already available in the town — they are needed to keep up with the ongoing transformation of Morristown, one that has seen Valley Bank open a headquarters across the street from HQ Plaza while Sanofi and Deloitte are readying to move into nearby M Station.

This transformation is just what Dougherty envisioned when he was first elected mayor in 2010.

The current look of Headquarters Plaza. (Tom Bergeron/ROI-NJ)

“One of the things I said 14 years ago was, ‘If we really invest in the in the commercial downtown district, you’re going to see east to west movement through the town,’” he said. “And you’re seeing it with Valley and Sanofi and Deloitte. You’re seeing it with people coming off the train and going to work here.

“You don’t have to go to New York anymore to get all this,” he said.

The new design of the 1 million-square-foot mixed-use HQ Plaza, which was envisioned by Gensler (which has an office in town), aims to create a vibrant destination for best-in-class office, hospitality, dining and entertainment center.

HQ Plaza, which features 100,000 square feet of retail space along with the 256-room Hyatt Regency Morristown, also has a 40,000-square-foot Crunch health club with indoor swimming pool, and a 10-screen AMC theater atop a 3,000-space parking garage.

The onsite Hyatt, which recently underwent a full renovation designed by Gensler, features 31,000 square feet of meeting and conference space that includes four large ballrooms and 32 flexible conference rooms, enhanced with catering services and advanced audiovisual support to serve the business needs of tenants and hotel guests.

“We’re proud to work with Gensler to invigorate HQ Plaza as we apply a modern, energetic aesthetic to the development,” Fisher said. “This property is a well-established destination for business and leisure, and it brings us great satisfaction to unveil our new vision for the complex.

“The new design centers around providing our tenants with access to contemporary workspaces, thoughtfully curated hospitality, entertainment and the finest dining that Morris County has to offer.”

Rene Cruz, a project director at Gensler, said the complex will have impact in many ways.

“The transformation of HQ Plaza offers an exciting new elevated experience for both office tenants and guests who visit the concourse each day. Infused with daylight and biophilia, the space will become a destination with a host of amenities and offerings that can support a variety of events and space for collaboration,” he said.

Robert Donnelly Jr., vice chairman of Cushman & Wakefield, which is the leasing agent of HQ Plaza, said the transformation will further enhance marketability of a complex that already is 90% leased.

The biggest reasons: The floor plates (a floor is 16,500 square feet) come in the smaller sizes companies are searching for — and the property has the amenities that employees of the companies are looking for to return to the office.

“Building a project of this scale in downtown Morristown was pioneering from the start. The original Headquarters Plaza, with its Class A office space, ample parking and outstanding amenities, has been instrumental in enabling corporate employers to consistently attract and retain top talent over the years,” he said. “The new HQ Plaza will further elevate Morristown’s reputation as one of the most desirable areas of the state to live, work and play.”