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Developer offers different product.

The downturn in the market has confirmed a notion the partners at George Kessel Associates had 10 years ago: To compete with all the new commercial development that was occurring they must continue to create something different.

Beginning in the late 70's, said Jeffrey Kessel, the company began to focus on multi-tenant "flex" projects, which could be easily changed and divided to accommodate high-tech, industrial and/or office users. By 1983, Kessel Associates, based in Bergenfield, New Jersey, had developed five such projects.

"Basically, one of the reasons for our success is we concentrated on a product that was not common," said Kessel who is partners in the full service real estate firm with his father, George, and his brother, Steven. "Over the last 10 years, there have been so many office buildings and the market can only absorb so much. A module building, atrium style, was almost unheard of in an industrial building, but there was a demand for clients who like office buildings but want storage space."

George Kessel Associates is currently one of Northern New Jersey's largest owner/developers with a portfolio of approximately 25 office and industrial buildings totalling 1 million square feet. The properties are located throughout Bergen, Passaic and Essex Counties in New Jersey. The most recent project is the development of an ultramodern business park, Commercenter/Totowa, a 47-acre hightech industrial/office complex on Riverview Drive in Totowa, New Jersey.

The company handles all development activities in-house, from planning and construction to marketing and property management.

"We're very hands on, we don't like it when you can't get in a car and get to a building easily," said Kessel, a New Jersey native.

Kessel Associates began development on Commercenter/Totowa in 1987 and to date, five single-story high-tech/flex buildings and one threestory building have been completed, totalling more than 300,000-squarefeet. The business park will include 12 buildings when completed and 1 million-square-feet of space.

"Because of the nature of flex buildings, you always have the ability to shrink or grow," Kessel said. "We're proud of the distinguished group of tenants that have located at the park." Tenants at Commercenter/Totowa include Cornmwealth Land Tide Insurance; Siemans Fiber Optic Components; Hoffman LaRoche: Caremark, a division of Baxter International; Konica Business Machines, U.S.A.; Minolta Bus iness Systems; National Community Bank; and Bell Atlanticore.

Kessel Associates purchased the land for Commercenter/Totowa in 1983, a site that was previously an airport runway. The project took five years before site work could begin because of the various approvals that were required, but once completed, Commercenter/Totowa will generate nearly $1 million in tax revenue for the Borough of Totowa and provide approximately 1,000 jobs.

"We have a good relationship with Totowa," said Kessel. "The leaders were very practical to the town's needs and they saw us coming along as a good opportunity for taxes to support the town."

The newest building in the complex, 45 Commerce Way, the seventh at the site, is ready for occupancy. Kessel said the 51,000-squarefoot building features reflective glass exteriors and unique architectural styling, surrounded by beautifully landscaped grounds.

"The building's design combines function and aesthetics," Kessel said. "The building's flexibility attracted Woodward Clyde Consultants, which preleased 14,000-square-feet last November."

Kessel noted that all the completed buildings at Commercenter/Totowa are close to 100) percent leased, with many tenants deciding to lease additional space once they moved in.

Sandvik Process Systems, a division of the $4 billion multi-national Sandvik, AB, headquartered in Sweden, recently expanded its headquarters at 29 Commerce Way for the second time in less than a year. Sandvik leased an additional 10,800-square-feet, and now occupies a total of 26,500-square-feet in the building.

Although the building at 29 Commerce Way is a single-story, modular structure, Kessel pointed said its 20foot ceilings provide enough loftiness to create mezzanine level office suites, while a full-height glass facade lends a corporate appearance.

"This design is very unusual for an industrial type of building but it gives tenants like Sandvik complete flexibility in designing the space, and the ability to create a comfortable, executive style environment," said Kessel.

In addition to Commercenter/Totowa, George Kessel Associates has an extensive portfolio of industrial properties throughout northern New Jersey, including Commercenter/Mahwah, an 80,000square-foot, high-tech building and a two-building complex totalling nearly 100,000-square-feet on Pegasus Ave. in Northvale.

Kessel Associates also developed River Edge Office Center, a 16,400square-foot office building and has two Essex County properties located in Fairfield; Jolin Plaza, a 77,000-squarefoot multi-tenant facility and the entire 9 Stewart Place building, a 28,000square-foot warehouse and distribution facility.

Kessel, 36, is a partner in George Kessel Associates with his younger brother, Steven, and his father, George, who rounded the company in 1977. The father and two sons all have their specialties at Kessel Associates, with George in charge of finance Steven managing construction, a Jeffrey handling marketing and leasing

"The company started way back: said Kessel. "Its roots are from 190 my grandfather was a blacksmith and his trade evolved into a structural steel company. My father really was the one who evolved the company into a structural steel and development firm in the mid-70's."

The Kessel family prides itself on contributing to the communities which they work. A plaque hanging the office of George Sr. is a neighborhood award presented in 1986 by the children of Totowa as thanks for upgrading and refurbishing a large section of the John F. Kennedy Park at Playground.

The company also received an away from the town of Bergenfield for renovating the former headquarters of the Bergen County Iron Works. The structural steel fabricating plant, which noe serves as Kessel Associates headquarters on Portland Ave., was converted into executive office space which has been 100 percent occupied since the work was completed on the 31,000square-foot, four-building complex.

George Kessel Associates was name Developer of the Year, Division II by the New Jersey Chapter of the National Association of Industrial and office Parks (NAIOP) in 1990.

"Even during the '80s, we kept a low profile," said Kessel. "We haven't changed our pace and we're able to keep that pace. We stress quality so we're a little more expensive, we provide a lot of extensive landscape.

"Activity seems to be picking up, Kessel added. "We'll continue building, leasing and managing Totowa and managing our older existing buildings. We pay as much attention to a property whether its 1,200 square feet or 12,000 square feet."
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Title Annotation:George Kessel Associates focuses on multi-tenant flexible real estate projects capable of accommodating high-tech, industrial or office users
Author:Alger, Derek
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Apr 7, 1993
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