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More Than Meets the Eye

Courtesy of Prudential

More Than Meets the Eye

Prudential rocks The Brick (and then some) with its new Global Asset Management HQ.

By Mark Stewart

Courtesy of Prudential

The glass and steel office tower is an iconic component of the American urban landscape. It projects stability, strength permanence. It is also meant to reflect, figuratively as well as literally, its surroundings. Alas, this is where most corporate architecture falls distressingly short. Not so the Prudential’s new 20-story addition to the Newark skyline, located on Broad Street across the street from Military Park. In its artifice, from all four sides, one can see the future of a resurgent neighborhood.

The new building, which opened in 2015 and houses the company’s Global Asset Management operations—the “old” Prudential building at 751 Broad will remain company HQ—was designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox. KPF was selected during a design competition held in 2011. Prudential was leasing space in Gateway I, II and III, with a lease set to expire in 2014. The company determined it would build in Newark and, after considering a number of possible sites, zeroed in on the once-blighted neighborhood between Rutgers-Newark and NJPAC.

Courtesy of Prudential

“Moving out of Newark was not a desirable option,” says Rich Hummers, VP of Enterprise Services & Financial Systems for Prudential Financial. “We looked at alternatives, but the pros of staying far outweighed the cons. When we weighed the economics—especially the urban transportation tax credits—with the chance to have a transformational impact of building in this neighborhood, this was the obvious choice. We are so proud of the role Prudential plays, and that the new building plays, in the revitalization of Newark.”

The building, which houses 20 Global Asset units in 740,000 square feet, actually encompasses two towers—a north bar and south bar—that are connected by a soaring glass atrium. This was an expensive option, but part of the design challenge for KPF was to create spaces that made workers on each floor feel connected, maximized the sunlight streaming into the building, and took full advantage of the 360° views. Because the building houses a large trading operation it also came with complex technological requirements, including a need for unprecedented levels of redundancy.

Courtesy of Prudential

The list of must-haves Prudential presented to the architects didn’t end there. Because the company competes with Wall Street for talent, the new building had to have enough pizzazz to help attract the right people. “Something contemporary and iconic, but which didn’t shout Look at us!” adds Hummers. “We are not a flashy, ostentatious company. Still, we wanted it to have that wow factor.”

The first wow comes courtesy of a floor-to-ceiling at the far end of the blocklong lobby, where a massive video screen greets visitors (and greets VIPs by name). It lends color, warmth and energy to a cavernous space that otherwise features muted tones thanks to stone floors and walls and a white oak wood ceiling—all of which use sustainable materials. The lobby itself is LEED gold-certified and, impressively, echo-free. The surrounding wood is engineered with millions of tiny holes that deliver sound-deadening acoustic qualities. The glass used in the building is something of a science experiment. Prudential wanted a material that would give the building a mirror quality, but not too much. It couldn’t read green (it reads deep blue), and had to transition to liquid silver and white depending on the time of day. And, of course, it had to be energy-efficient.

Courtesy of Prudential

For Prudential employees, the wow factor is delivered daily in a well-conceived work environment. Each unit had a say in how interior design firm Mancini Duffy created its work area—down to the color palettes used on the floors, ceilings and seat cushions. The Prudential culture leans toward the collaborative, so not surprisingly the individual workspaces are smaller, with lower-than-usual partitions. Each floor has its own conference rooms, as well as “huddle spaces” for smaller groups.

One entire floor of the new building has been devoted to a 40,000-square-foot conference center. The largest space is named in honor of Kiyo Sakaguchi, who led Prudential in the development of its international business philosophy. Sakaguchi Hall can seat 300 to 500 people, boasts a theatrical lighting and sound system, and includes a broadcast studio that can feed right into the networks or simulcast to every desktop in the company. The building also has three Zen gardens, a health and wellness facility, and a state-of-the art fitness center.

The largest communal space is the café floor. It can serve over 2,500 people a day, and includes a rooftop terrace that’s packed on nice days. Prudential opens the terrace to outside events. It sits atop the company’s 600,000-square-foot parking garage, which accommodates 1,400 cars. The terrace uses captured rainwater for irrigation. That water also feeds the structure’s two enormous green walls, which together cover a full acre. They are home to a dozen native species, all of which grow vertically and, with some careful tending, form part of the company’s Rock of Gibraltar logo.

Courtesy of Prudential

The new tower will serve as the centerpiece of Prudential’s greater vision for Newark. The company has been part of the city’s economic and cultural DNA through good times and bad, dating back to the 1870s.

“When Newark came upon challenging times, we could have left the city,” acknowledges Lata Reddy, VP of Corporate Responsibility. “But we had an opportunity to play a role and help the city thrive again, to become a regional draw. We’re involved in everything from Newark’s physical redevelopment to investing in the people.

“We do a lot of work around education and job training,” she adds. “We are really proud that Newark residents participated in the building of the tower. Some of those jobs were temporary, but many were converted into ongoing employment. Prudential also made a point of procuring supplies and materials from local Newark businesses.”

“We have always been part of the solution,” Reddy says.

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