In 2013, Unilever retained Cushman & Wakefield to address challenges facing its North American headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. The building suffered from aging infrastructure, and its layout was inefficient given the company’s current workforce makeup and utilization needs. With more than 1,700 employees spread across five locations and separate buildings, totaling 750,000 square feet, Unilever required an innovative solution to foster a more collaborative culture and to eliminate cost-prohibitive inefficiencies. Unilever Workplace and Travel Services (WPTS) consulted with Cushman & Wakefield to develop a creative approach that would transform their space culturally and economically, with significant sustainability benefits including both LEED and WELL certifications.
The Cushman & Wakefield team immediately set out to explore several options inclusive of both occupancy and transaction structure strategies. Relying upon an existing relationship with Unilever, Cushman & Wakefield deployed a dedicated program management team to consult on possible solutions. The final strategy developed by Unilever, was supported by Cushman & Wakefield in three components:
- Restructure of Lease at 800 Sylvan Avenue – Unilever occupied 800 Sylvan Avenue under a triple net lease. The building was owned by separate owners for both the land and the improvements. Cushman & Wakefield leveraged its relationships with local investors to procure a buyer for both the land and improvements, who in turn leased back a portion of the building for Unilever’s Research & Development operation on a long-term basis. The lease was structured to allow Unilever to temporarily occupy the entire building as swing space during the construction at 700 Sylvan Avenue. The Cushman & Wakefield Valuation & Advisory team evaluated provisions of the lease to ensure the most advantageous outcome for Unilever.
- Sale Leaseback of 700 Sylvan Avenue – After Cushman & Wakefield advised Unilever of the various transaction structures available, Unilever elected to enter into a sale leaseback of the property and reinvest the proceeds into the reconfiguration. The Cushman & Wakefield transaction team solicited interest from net lease investors, and ultimately supported Unilever in structuring a sale leaseback and development agreement with a developer partner.
- Project Management for 700 & 800 Sylvan Reconfiguration – Cushman & Wakefield is currently providing project management oversight for the reconfiguration of the 700 Sylvan Avenue building into a state-of-the-art workspace. The finished project, scheduled for delivery by the end of 2017, will provide a collaborative work environment using Unilever’s Agile standards, create a marketplace area for employee connectivity and interaction, and incorporate the latest in building technologies. In addition, the team is also overseeing upgrades to the Unilever-leased portion of 800 Sylvan Avenue, which will include technology, cosmetic, and functional improvements.
Having successfully implemented the real estate transaction structures that Unilever desired, the Cushman & Wakefield team is now working with Unilever to deliver the reconfigured workplace by the end of 2017. Cushman & Wakefield partnered with the Unilever transaction team on two transactions, consulted with the design and construction team, and assisted Unilever with state economic development negotiations that resulted in incentives of up to $40 million.
“This was a complicated project demanding an extensive range of expertise. Cushman & Wakefield had the talent, insight, and industry contacts to assist our team and deliver a complete solution,” said Ian Dunning, North America Service Delivery Director, of Unilever Workplace and Travel Services.