October 21, 2015
The million square foot Merck Headquarters building was vacated in December 2014. How did this move effect our 2015 property taxes?
Answer: The assessment value of the Merck property dropped by 28%, or $60 million dollars. This accounted for an approximate 2% drop in Readington’s ratable base of $2.67 billion dollars. However, this decrease in tax revenue wasn’t entirely absorbed by Readington taxpayers because other factors such as new construction along Route 22 in Whitehouse Station have served to offset this drop by adding new revenue to the tax base. Readington’s property taxes only increased by less than 1% from 2014 to 2015 to accommodate for standard annual increases in government expenses, along with the decline to our ratable tax base resulting from reassessment of the Merck property.
Merck is selling their two office buildings on 1000 acres of land, with a November 2015 closing for $100 million dollars. Who is buying the property and what plans do the new owners have?
Answer: The purchaser is LHR Group. It is listed as an investment bank based in Israel. Merck has revealed to Readington officials that through their agreement with the new owner, they will continue to occupy, on a rental basis, the smaller of the two office buildings known as “Whitehouse West” for a period of 15 years. The new owners will continue the search for an acceptable new occupant or occupants for the world class facility that served as Merck’s Headquarters for over 20 years. The Township Mayor was told in several meetings with representatives of LHR Group that the closing would take place this November.
What would Smart Planning look like for the Merck property?
Answer: Readington has expressed a willingness to be flexible and to work with the new owners. Smart planning by Township officials would assure that this unique property is only repurposed in a way that does not have a negative effect on our township, truly benefits our residents and complies with Readington’s overall planning goals. It should be a use that provides a favorable ratable for our township and provides quality, well-paying jobs for our region. Whatever happens on the property will be largely determined by decisions made by local Boards and Committees. We encourage residents to attend any future meetings regarding redevelopment proposals by the new owners of the Merck property, and we will do our best to keep you informed of those dates.