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  • Writer's pictureAndre Watson

'Right on the cusp': NJ firm bets $40M on Bala Cynwyd boom with purchase of 2 office buildings along

Norden Realty Investments bought the building at 225 City Ave. in Bala Cynwyd for nearly $20 million.

A New Jersey real estate investment firm has acquired two buildings along City Avenue in Bala Cynwyd over the last year, investing a total of nearly $40 million into the area's growth potential.

Norden Realty Investments bought the three-story buildings from Keystone Development & Investment in separate transactions nine months apart, first paying $19.25 million for a 76,663-square-foot property at 225 City Ave. in May 2022 and then acquiring a 56,641-square-foot building at 15 Kings Grant Drive for $20.35 million in February.

Norden expects to explore the possibility of repositioning the office buildings to focus on medical tenants. The Piscataway, New Jersey-based company hopes to capitalize on increased activity around the busy Lower Merion thoroughfare, which has seen an uptick in new development in recent years.

“You’re in between Philadelphia and some of the high-end suburbs. You’re in a very good spot,” said Jon Brinck-Lund, assistant vice president at Norden Realty Investments. “You need a churn. You need people, you need excitement and you need things happening. We think we’re right on the cusp of all that right there in those locations.”

There’s $300 million in active development projects underway along City Avenue, according to the City Avenue District. Keystone, Tishman Speyer Properties and Federal Realty Investment Trust all have projects in the area focused on mixed-use development, including new apartments, retail, dining and entertainment.

Most of Norden's properties are in Central Jersey, and it didn’t own any properties in the Philadelphia area before buying 225 City Ave.

Nearly a year later, the company is busy planning what to do with the building. Radio station B101 (WBEB-FM), which is owned by Audacy, is moving to Center City and will leave behind 15,000 square feet when its lease ends in the first quarter of 2024. B101 is the biggest tenant in the building, which is 86% occupied. Other tenants include Allied Mortgage Group, Jefferson Health and Katz’s Deli.

With 15,000 square feet coming available, Brinck-Lund said Norden could look for a single tenant to fill the space or break it up among multiple tenants. He said there is potential to market it to medical tenants, citing the strong medical presence nearby. There’s also room for a potential 28,000 square feet of retail development on the front of the property.

“The building gives us flexibility to meet the market, and that is something we like,” Brinck-Lund said. “Breaking spaces up for smaller spaces to meet the market and catch the market where they’re at. With that flexibility, we’re very comfortable with that. We can work with that.”

After the 225 City Ave. sale, Brinck-Lund said Keystone approached Norden about buying 15 Kings Grant Drive.

Keystone Regional Director Robert Leu said the plan was always to renovate and sell both buildings, but he said the company is “still very bullish” on Bala Cynwyd.

Brinck-Lund called buying 15 Kings Grant Drive “a golden opportunity” since Norden was already familiar with Keystone and the location, which is a few hundred feet away from 225 City Ave. Cardone Industries, an auto parts manufacturer, signed a 15-year lease at 15 Kings Grant Drive In 2018 but never moved in and has been trying to sublease the space since 2020.

The property was attractive to Norden because a single tenant was signed for the next decade. Brinck-Lund said this building could also be converted for medical use in the future.

In the meantime, Norden is optimistic about the outlook for City Avenue and Bala Cynwyd. “That area has a potential for growth we feel in the next 5, 10 years that is going to be very strong,” Brinck-Lund said. “And very strong for surrounding buildings, surrounding neighbors.”

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