PITTSTON TWP. — An uptick in requests to develop new office buildings has led Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services to announce plans to construct an office park that could house up to 750 employees.
A company spokesman said that the developer will start construction of the first of a planned six-office building complex at the entrance to CenterPoint Commerce & Trade Park West in Pittston Township this spring.
The buildings will range from 14,400 square feet to 44,800 square feet and will total just over 150,000 square feet. There are no tenants that have signed leases, meaning the entire project is being built on speculation based on recent inquiries.
The one-story, 22,601-square-foot brick facility that crews will begin building this spring is on a 4-acre-site along Enterprise Way, immediately adjacent to the Junior Achievement facility off of Oak Street. Mericle’s Vice President of Marketing Jim Cummings said the developer will break ground for the second building as soon as the first has been substantially occupied.
Cummings said a recent change in the type of inquiries Mericle is receiving led to the idea for the project.
“We’ve finally seen an uptick in requests for office space,” he said. “Our area has been in a dry spell as far as office leads go. Hopefully, the momentum we are seeing will sustain itself.”
Cummings said inquiries from health-care companies needing office space account for the majority of calls.
“Eight out of our last 12 office inquiries had some tie to health care or life sciences,” he said. “We have received calls from companies needing space for medical claims processing, surgery centers, dental clinics, health-care administration and even physician recruiting.” Other inquiries have come from financial services offices and law firms, he added.
The office buildings could be the next step in enticing bioscience-related companies to locate in the region.
The NEPA Regional Biosciences Initiative, which was established in 2010 by regional leaders in education, business, economic development and government, aims to increase life science career and business opportunities within Northeastern Pennsylvania.
“We’ve been very fortunate in that we’ve already been able to locate seven companies with life-sciences or health-care ties to CenterPoint,” said Cummings.
“However, they’ve all located in our flex or industrial buildings. Our new office buildings will broaden our ability to recruit different types of companies, including health-care companies, to CenterPoint.”
Though Mericle owns land throughout the county that could have served as a home to these offices, Cummings said CenterPoint West was selected for the mini office park because of its proximity to both Scranton and Wilkes-Barre and its access to I-81.
“Many of our inquiries for office space have come from firms wishing to be equidistant to the populations of the region’s two largest cities,” he said. “Their preference is to open one location convenient to both cities rather than opening offices in both communities.”
Since 2006, Mericle has developed 21 buildings in CenterPoint Commerce & Trade Park. Those buildings are occupied by 32 companies that together employ approximately 3,400 people, according to Cummings.
Larry Newman, the executive director at Diamond City Partnership, an organization that markets downtown Wilkes-Barre, said he doesn’t see the proposed office space as competition for the dozens of available offices in the region’s cities.
Neither do Bill Moore, the president of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry, or Austin Burke, who heads the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce.
Burke said attracting businesses to Northeastern Pennsylvania is the ultimate goal, and if that happens, “downtown Wilkes-Barre and downtown Scranton and downtown Pittston” will benefit.
While readily acknowledging there is plenty of available office space in the region, including in chamber-owned properties in Scranton and Jessup, Burke said having more is not a bad thing.
“You have to offer a variety of options, sizes and locations,” Burke noted.
Newman said that while there is “an oversupply of office space in downtown Wilkes-Barre,” he does not believe the new office complex will negatively impact the ability to fill the available spaces.
Newman said that as more companies are attracted to the region, it will raise the awareness level of other firms looking for available offices. And they might find Wilkes-Barre in their searching and opt to locate here in readily-available space.
Although he declined to go into the need of more offices in the region, Newman said Mericle obviously has done market studies and research to show there is a need and the interest is there.
“I think it’s a vote of confidence in the market,” Newman said. He added that having available flex, warehousing and office space in a region is not a bad thing because when companies decide they need space, they want it immediately, not in a year or two.
“They want them in the ground and up, not just on the books,” Moore noted.