Former mortgage firm headquarters to be demolished in Mount Laurel


MOUNT LAUREL – A New York City firm plans to demolish a massive office building it bought here for $78.7 million.

The three-story, 375,000-square-foot structure — the former home of PHH Mortgage — would make way for a 525,000-square-foot warehouse, according to the p;roperty’s owner.

The developer, CNLI OMLNJ LLC, acquired the 41-acre property in July 2022, according to property records.

The property owner, an affiliate of a global investment firm, received planning board approval for its project at a Dec. 14 meeting.

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The costly project comes as warehouse builders compete for increasingly scarce development sites.

Due to “land constraints” in South Jersey, warehouse developers “are less focused on cost and more on securing the right land option to suit their requirements,” Newmark Real Estate reported in April 2022, three months before the Bishops Gate purchase.

Burlington County is particularly attractive with major highways and Delaware River bridges that put warehouses “within a day’s drive of the country’s densest population,” said an October report from Wolf Commercial Real Estate of Evesham.

Even though vacancy rates are rising, South Jersey warehouses have lower rents than New York/North Jersey competitors, leaving them “well positioned to capture spillover demand from these significant industrial port markets,” it added.

Burlington County had industrial space, a category dominated by warehouses, of 66.3 million square feet in this year’s third quarter, according to Newmark.

That compared to a combined 75.5 million square feet in Camden, Gloucester and Salem counties.

No member of the public addressed the planning board before its unanimous vote.

Warehousing is a permitted use at the project’s location, which is zoned for industrial use, noted Robert Baranowski, an attorney for the applicant.

At the same time, he said, the developer has agreed to use landscaping to screen its warehouse from a corporate neighbor – the headquarters of Holman Enterprises.

Landscaping and berms will obscure the view from adjacent Walton Avenue, The project also will end access to and from the narrow street with homes and the Bancroft School campus.

The proposed warehouse, to be built as a speculative development, would have 108 loading docks and 106 trailer parking spaces.

Warehouse could employ hundreds around the clock

It could employ up to 660 workers on two shifts, Baranowski said.

One or more future tenants could operate at the site around the clock.

The property’s owner is a unit of Carlyle Net Lease Income LP, itself a part of $32-billion-in-assets Carlyle Group.

The building is currently vacant, although a recent visit found a small group of black vultures peering down from a ledge over a main entrance.

Baranowski noted a vast parking lot at the site, which currently has 2,641 spaces, would be replaced by one for 330 personal vehicles.

“The switch from office use to the warehouse will actually reduce traffic,” he said.

The planned warehouse, a short distance from an interchange for I-295, would have 486,585 square feet of warehouse floor space and 20,000 square feet of office space.

Among other changes, the project would end existing access to and from Walton Avenue, a narrow street with homes and the Bancroft School campus. Berms and landscaping would be used to screen operations from neighbors, including an office building used by Holman Enterprises.

The property’s address, One Mortgage Way, reflects its past association with a once-troubled loan firm.

PHH Mortgage lost more than $540 million over several years before its sale in 2018 to Florida-based Ocwen Financial Corp.

Among other financial woes, it agreed to pay more than $140 million to resolve challenges from state and federal regulators, as well as from a class action lawsuit on behalf of its customers.

The Bishops Gate project is the second in recent months to target an empty office building for a warehouse development.

The planning board in October approved an unrelated plan to raze the former headquarters of Freedom Mortgage Corp. on Pleasant Valley Drive.

Property records show that site was sold for $15.2 million for a developer planning a 214,700-square-foot refrigerated warehouse.

Freedom Mortgage moved its base to Florida in 2022.

Jim Walsh is a senior reporter for the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and The Daily Journal. Email: Jwalsh@cpsj.com.

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