Reimagine. Reinvent. Reinvigorate.

August 28, 2014

Turning visions into the reality. Fiercely reimagining what places can be. Transforming that of little perceived value into something with lasting value. Ultimately, it takes more courage, conviction and know-how to work with that which has been left behind, rather than that which is served on a blank slate.

Matrix Development Group identified one such opportunity: an abandoned corporate park along the New Jersey Turnpike – formerly the Rhodia Pharmaceutical Campus. It was dog-eared from its heyday in the 1970’s, but the existing infrastructure and utilities remained largely intact and usable, with allowances for moderate alterations and code compliance. Well-traveled access roads to turnpike Interchange 8A not only preexisted, but had been well-designed to handle the load of transport vehicles to and from the surrounding warehouse and distribution centers.

By contrast, small, historic towns such as Cranbury, Jamesburg and Monroe Township, abut the development, contributing to its neighborhood feel. Existing, viable site infrastructure, easy access to major transportation, and great neighbors (large and small), add up to three good things – location, location and location – and Matrix knows a good location when they see one.

The vision: maintain the original footprint of the development while renewing the site’s master plan to create a neighborhood feel in the corporate park. This could only be accomplished by transforming the large structures of the vast campus into a strategic collection of buildings of varying scale and façade, and re-inventory the buildings to better position them to attract a range of smaller and larger anchor clients. Walking trails interlace the buildings and create a central park of protected open space to foster both wellness and community interaction. One central building is re-purposed as a public café, drawing both corporate and neighborhood diners. Traffic flow within the campus has been re-examined simplified, directional signage redesigned and road surfaces improved.

The past: honor the initial success of the pharmaceutical campus and the impact it made at one time on the surrounding community. The architectural history of the site has not been pilfered, demolished or cast away. It lives on. Maximum effort and sensible expenditure have been concentrated to transform the campus into an entity that is more responsive to the current economic development of the community and to once again ignite commerce in a complex that lie dormant for many years.

In keeping respect for the past, the mature vegetation of the site has remained undisturbed. Buried infrastructure has remained, well, buried. And an interesting piece of history can be found in the café – a preserved section of blast wall from the pharmaceutical laboratory that had previously worked with volatile chemicals. The dramatic souvenir serves as a point of interest and an acknowledgement of the campus’s past. Reduce, reuse and recycle is reinterpreted as reimagine, reinvent, and reinvigorate.

The impact: integrated sustainability, preserved indigenous, mature landscaping, and readdressed inherited building systems. Storm water has been rehabilitated through detention and retention basins. Photovoltaic arrays installed, and daylighting maximized. Building envelopes have become high performance, bathroom facilities low-flow. HVAC and power delivery systems deliver efficiency. The bottom line? High expectations have been met by significantly reducing water and energy demand. Overall, it is an overhaul – not with a sledgehammer, but with a precise sustainability and performance analysis to make just the right upgrades in just the right places.

Additionally, the property’s resiliency to natural hazards has been significantly increased. Each rehabilitated building incorporates comprehensive sprinkler systems. Entirely new roof and exterior window wall assemblies contribute to each building’s high performance envelope, which address waterproofing, thermal insulation and sound dampening. Wind, rain, fire – super storms named Sandy -- The redevelopment of this corporate campus has taken steps to plan for the worst, while continuing to push forward towards success.

An abandoned corporate campus, when viewed with imagination, expertise and resourcefulness, presents opportunity to re-use existing infrastructure, conserve land and energies, create efficiencies in time and money, engage surrounding communities, reenergize local economies, and ultimately, promote and practice the overriding concept of good citizenship. With strategic vision, an abandoned corporate campus can be transformed into nimble, vibrant and productive vehicle for commerce and creativity. For Matrix Corporation, beyond Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, there exists Reimagine, Reinvent, Reinvigorate.