By Joshua Burd
For Viridian Partners, a firm that specializes in acquiring, remediating and repositioning contaminated land into new development sites, New Jersey has always checked all of the boxes.
“The nexus that we needed to make it work was a very land-constrained market with a lot of population and a lot of demand, but just not enough dirt,” said Tate Goss, the firm’s president. “We also had to have brownfields that were sufficiently sized so that you could do something meaningful with them.”
It’s why Viridian’s first project more than a decade ago was in New Jersey, despite being based in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. And the Garden State has continued to be a major piece of its business, especially with the shortage of sizable, well-located development sites that could support the state’s booming market for industrial construction.
With major projects in a half-dozen New Jersey municipalities, Viridian has remediated enough land to make way for 6.5 million square feet of industrial space, Goss said. Its entrance came in 2005 through Burlington Township, where it acquired a 130-acre property that housed an active chemical plant from 1947 to 1992.
Over the next several years after Viridian’s acquisition, the firm carried out a remediation plan that included treating and removing hazardous materials in the ground, while bringing in more than 300,000 cubic yards of fill to the site along the Delaware River.
“That’s a scary proposition to deal with if you don’t know what you’re doing,” Goss said. “We had the best science in the country working on that, and we basically turned a lagoon into a big green rock.”
The result was a site that was approved for nearly 1.7 million square feet of industrial space, which was sold as shovel-ready and is now seeing active construction.
The firm, which was founded by Goss and CEO William Lynott, also has done projects in Woodbridge, Elizabeth, Cranbury and Perth Amboy. What it hasn’t done is vertical development, even with the wealth of experience that both founders brought to the venture.
“That’s more of a strategic move on our part,” said Goss, who spent some 45 years in development before Viridian. “You’ve got some of the best developers — local, national, and regional — in the country in your market, so why compete with guys that we could be working with?”
Tate said its model works better here than a place such as Connecticut, which has brownfields but not ones that are large enough to support major development. That’s not the case in New Jersey, thanks to its manufacturing heritage.
Viridian has since found opportunities in other markets, including California and Florida. But it’s also looking for more opportunities in New Jersey, even amid growing competition for sites.
In its pipeline, the firm has enough projects to produce about 2.5 million square feet of developable space, Goss said.
And while New Jersey’s layers of regulation are usually the source of angst for many businesses, that type of framework is a positive in Viridian’s case.
“We do like doing business there,” Goss said. “At lot of states just don’t have that level of sophistication.”