RBH Groups sells AeroFarms’ Newark HQ for $21M (updated)

Jessica Perry//December 2, 2021

RBH Groups sells AeroFarms’ Newark HQ for $21M (updated)

Jessica Perry//December 2, 2021

AeroFarms boasts the world’s largest indoor aeroponic farm at its corporate headquarters in Newark, a property that was just sold for $21 million to Cabot Properties Inc.

On Dec. 2, RBH 212 Rome Real Estate and Makers Village QALICB LLC, subsidiaries of RBH Group LLC, announced the sale of the 69,000-square-foot commercial property occupied by Aerofarms at 212 Rome St.

Thomas Walsh and Joseph Garibaldi of Walker & Dunlop were retained to exclusively arrange the sale on behalf of RBH.

RBH said that under Cabot’s ownership, AeroFarms will continue to operate the facility as its headquarters and indoor farm.

According to the Newark-based social impact real estate development company, the sale marks the successful transformation of a 3-acre former brownfields site and industrial manufacturing facility into a green manufacturing center that has created hundreds of jobs.

“While the property is an urban in-fill industrial asset, it was also a strong ESG investment in sustainable and clean farming,” Walsh said in a statement. “212 Rome St. is a self-contained production and distribution center, which makes for a low carbon footprint and reduces supply chain liabilities.”

AeroFarms’ output from the facility has served up leafy greens amounting to a maximum of 2 million pounds per year to local and regional restaurants, grocers and consumers.

“These types of social impact projects can be challenging to develop, but the success of the 212 Rome development demonstrates that they can make significant returns for our investors while at the same time benefitting the city, its residents, and the overall environment,” said RBH President and CEO Ron Beit.

Growing green

RBH purchased the property in 2014 with the intent to “minimize negative effects on the community, while maximizing economic and environmental benefit,” the company said in an announcement on the sale. In that pursuit, it met with local Ironbound District residents and the Ironbound Community Corp.

AeroFarms executives and state and city officials broke ground for the company's new headquarters and vertical farm in Newark.
AeroFarms executives and state and city officials broke ground for the company’s new headquarters and vertical farm in Newark in 2019. – OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR

After securing AeroFarms as a tenant, RBH, the ICC and the company signed a Memorandum of Understanding committing to attract and retain local residents – and to train them for 54 “good-paying” jobs with benefits.

Flash forward and, according to RBH, AeroFarms has created more than 200 local positions.

Financing for the effort was funded through a public-private partnership that included a Community Development Block Grant from the City of Newark, $30 million in Federal New Market tax Credits, the now-defunct State of New Jersey Grow NJ tax credits and Economic recovery Growth Grants, tenant and private debt source and private equity, RBH said.

The firm was also involved in helping AeroFarms secure tax credits and equity for its administrative build-out, farm and expansions.

“We are proud to have worked with RBH, Aerofarms, and Goldman Sachs to bring this project to our hometown of Newark,” said Reuben Teague, Prudential Financial’s executive director, Impact and Responsible Investment. “Aerofarms is exactly the type of innovative firm that is catalyzing the local economy, hiring Newarkers, and bringing more investment to the city. RBH’s ambitious redevelopment of 212 Rome from a functionally obsolete site into a high-tech global headquarters epitomizes the transformative development our impact investments team seeks to support.”

Editor’s note: In a previous version of this article, the quotation from Walker & Dunlop’s Thomas Walsh indicated that the property at 212 Rome St. was projected to increase its capacity to more than 20 million pounds annually after the completion of Phase II. According to AeroFarms, that was incorrect so the comment has been removed.