April 29, 2020

Fourth Generation Developer depends on SlenderWall for Keystone Building in their Namesake Project.

Embassy Suites, Berkeley Heights, NJ

Connell Corporate Park continues its 40-year impact on Berkeley Heights and Central New Jersey.

“You have to have a live-work-play mix,” said Shane Connell, Executive Vice President and fourth-generation co-owner of Connell Co. whose corporate tenants include the likes of L’Oreal USA, Hewlett Packard, and Lifetime Fitness.

The company was founded in 1926 by Grover Cleveland Connell in New York City under the name Connell Rice & Commission Co. In the 1950s, second-generation owner Grover Connell moved the company to Westfield, NJ and between the late 1960s and mid-1980s he expanded the operation into food imports, finance, real estate, equipment leasing, and mining products. The family-owned company now has holdings in Massachusetts; California; Texas; Scottsdale, Arizona; Charlotte, North Carolina; Portland, Oregon; Denver and Seattle.



Reshaping the property for the next 40 Years

Their newly opened Embassy Suites Hotel is the center of an expansive rejuvenation of the 185-acre site, adjacent to Interstate 78 and 22 miles West of NYC. Expansion plans include 328 apartments, 85,000 square feet of retail, and a public park.

“The more urban you are, the more accessible you’ll be,” Connell added. “The hotel is part of a rebranding effort.”

Adjacent to the hotel, The Grove, a two-acre public park lushly landscaped pedestrian-friendly urban woodland setting, will feature a great lawn, a meandering walking path, multi-level sculptural seating, the Connell Plaza amphitheater, fitness trails, outdoor basketball courts, and a dog park.

“With the public park, we’re spending a significant amount of money to build something that not just our tenants can enjoy, but the public can actually use,” Connell said. “So the more the public comes here, the more urban it will feel.”

The new 176-suite hotel will provide visitors, guests and business tenants access to a luxurious stay, including a 3,000-square-foot top-tier Starbucks and exclusive to the hotel, Grain & Cane, a rustic, industrial-style 150-seat gastro-pub serving a Manhattan-inspired menu with patio seating and a private dining room.

Township Mayor Robert Woodruff said he was excited about the prospects of the hotel and the other developments to Connell Corporate Park. During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the mayor described the Connell family as good neighbors. “They’re always there when we need them.”


Making decisions for long-term value

After researching several envelope products, Connell and their architecture firm PFVS ultimately entrusted the SlenderWall Architectural Precast Concrete System to clad their showcase building. The contractor on the project, Tocci Building Companies enlisted SlenderWall’s Mid-Atlantic licensed producer Smith-Midland with the manufacturing and erection.

The 396 (52,671 square feet) smooth, two-tone light/dark gray acid washed precast concrete panels enveloping the eight-story hotel mimicked a much more expensive natural stone finish. The result was not only cost-effective but complements the style and amenities envisioned by the design and development teams.

"We are glad that hotel owners see the benefit of using a long-lasting, durable envelope for their projects," said Matthew Smith, Smith-Midland’s Vice President. "Their headaches with maintenance and replacing the exteriors goes away."

The PFVS designed hotel features 17 kinds of accommodations, including two-bedroom layouts, standards, studios, and VIP Suites. A wide array of conference rooms, banquet rooms, and the Crescent – a glass-enclosed solarium accented with crystal chandeliers, 20-foot ceilings and surrounded by an English garden with an adjacent outdoor patio. Other hotel amenities will include electric car charging ports, fitness center, and an indoor saltwater pool.

“For the community around us, we’re building something that we hope that they will want to come and use,” Connell said.

A team built with specific experience

PFVS Architecture – Throughout the firm’s history, they have assisted hospitality clients around the country in developing more than 300 hotel projects that were aesthetically and financially successful. Established in 1987, the award-winning firm is a nationally recognized leader in the design of hotels. PFVS has provided services for multiple brands within the Hilton, Marriott, Starwood, Intercontinental, Hyatt and Wyndham families.


Tocci Building Companies – A leading construction management firm, known for its collaborative approach, is internationally recognized as a leader in Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). Headquartered in Woburn, MA, Tocci provides intelligent building solutions and construction services with an integrated approach and emphasis on sustainable construction throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic United States. These capabilities along with diligent supply chain management works to decrease the overall construction timeline and maintain budgets.

Smith-Midland Corporation – An innovator in the precast concrete industry with six decades of experience and product development. Smith-Midland maintains three plants across the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast region servicing Architectural, Transportation and Utility customers with a wide diversity of product offerings. Their Midland, VA facility is an Easi-Set licensed producer for SlenderWall. Smith-Midland’s award-winning efforts in Architectural endeavors comprise dozens of completed projects for nationally recognized clients throughout the Eastern United States.

Additional members of the project team include; structural engineer Ehlert Bryan, MEP engineer TLC Engineering, consulting engineer Maser Consulting P.A., interior design firm Paradigm Design Group, and culinary design consultant Ricca Design.


The benefit of choosing SlenderWall

The developer, architect, and contractor searched for a product to enclose the $39,500,000 structure that would not only hit budgetary targets but would also meet their desires for longevity, lessening of on-going maintenance, and risk mitigation, as well as increasing the speed of construction.

Cost-efficient, durable, and known for its long life span – with no failure issues – SlenderWall offered a wide variety of design and finish options, and provided a very viable alternative to traditional EFIS construction used by many hotel chains.

"By using SlenderWall and its cost-effective combination of durable architectural precast concrete, steel stud wall framing, and closed-cell spray foam insulation integral to the panel," said Chris Grogan, Business Development Manager, Smith-Midland, "the project was able to reduce both the on-site trade work required and the overall project schedule."

SlenderWall panels originally came to market more than 20 years ago, one of the pioneers of modular off-site composite construction. Smith-Midland’s just-in-time Lean manufacturing culture allows for delivery as panels are needed. This reduces job-site disruption and the need for long-term materials storage. Trucks are scheduled from their facility to coincide with the day’s allotment for installation.


A SlenderWall panel integrates a thin 2” architectural precast concrete face with an interior galvanized steel stud frame (ready for drywall), and closed-cell foam insulation. The application of the foam in a factory setting provides improved quality control and acts as both a continuous a thermal insulation barrier and a vapor barrier. Insulation depths on the Embassy Suites project delivered prescriptive thermal values of R-21.

Additionally, with the recent multiple reports from around the world of fire issues with cladding, great consideration was given to the fire-resistance qualities of any product considered for the hotel. Precast concrete by its nature is very resistant to fire. The SlenderWall assembly has been tested by independent third-party labs and meets the requested standards for both NFPA 285 and ASTM E119.

“SlenderWall provided the solution Connell was looking for,” stated Matthew Smith, Smith-Midland’s Vice President.



SIDEBAR: What is SlenderWall?

More than just a lightweight precast architectural panel, SlenderWall is a complete envelope system in a modular, panelized unit. The 2-in. exterior face is a composite of architectural concrete and polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) fibers with welded-wire reinforcement. Stainless-steel fasteners attach this exterior concrete face to 14- and 16-gauge, G90 galvanized-steel studs in a way that creates a thermal break that is filled with factory-applied, closed-cell foam insulation.

The entire SlenderWall assembly tips the scales at about a third the weight of a traditional architectural precast panel. SlenderWall’s cost and installation-efficiency benefits really come into play in high-rise designs that incorporate larger-format panels. In these projects, especially, architects will appreciate the fact that a single set of plans and details will take care of the entire building envelope. And, similarly, contractors eliminate the scheduling and warranty issues raised when multiple insulation and interior framing crews are required – and, in high-rises, the challenges of bringing in the oversized cranes necessary to lift significantly heavier architectural precast panels into place are eliminated.

For a quote on your next project visit Request a Quote or call 1-800-547-4045. SlenderWall is manufactured by a network of architectural precast concrete firms through licensing agreements with Easi-Set Worldwide.

www.easiset.com - 540-439-8911