Jon F. Hanson, chairman and founder of The Hampshire Cos., accepted NAIOP New Jersey’s Lifetime Achievement Award during the association’s 31st annual commercial real estate awards gala.
By Joshua Burd
It was 60 years ago this month that Jon Hanson entered the real estate business, starting a career that would earn him this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award from NAIOP New Jersey.
But as he accepted the award on Thursday night, he said there was just one problem.
“I’m never retiring,” Hanson deadpanned, drawing laughter from a crowd of more than 800, before gratefully accepting the honor from the commercial real estate association.
It was the second time in less than a week that an organization has recognized Hanson’s career. But the latest accolade came in the presence of fellow developers and service professionals who have worked with his firm, The Hampshire Cos., as part of NAIOP New Jersey’s 31st annual commercial real estate awards gala.
Held at The Palace at Somerset Park in Franklin, the program drew a sold-out crowd as the group honored several industry leaders and unveiled its Deal of the Year awards. Hanson was recognized alongside Mack-Cali Realty Corp. CEO Michael DeMarco and Jeff Milanaik, regional partner with Bridge Development Partners, who both received NAIOP’s Impact Award, while Cushman & Wakefield Vice Chairman Stan Danzig was given the Industry Service Award.
NAIOP also recognized Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac with the Caren S. Franzini Public Partner Award.
Each of the honorees thanked colleagues at their respective firms, citing the rapid pace of change in New Jersey real estate. DeMarco, who joined Mack-Cali in 2015, highlighted the role of fellow executives as the real estate investment trust has sought to right-size its once-vast office portfolio in the state and grow its residential pipeline.
“I believe it’s a changing industry. We need to lead that change,” DeMarco said. “From a Mack-Cali point of view, we’re trying to do that on an everyday basis. We believe the market has to change because the economy is changing so rapidly and so is the tenant base.”
As for the Deal of the Year awards, the association named winners in three categories:
Mixed-use: The mixed-use New Brunswick Performing Arts Center redevelopment in New Brunswick, a $171.8 million, 450,000-square-foot project resulting from a public-private partnership of 19 major partners. The award recognized stakeholders including New Brunswick Development Corp., Pennrose Properties, the city of New Brunswick, Middlesex County, Rutgers University, New Brunswick Cultural Center, New Jersey Economic Development Authority, New Brunswick Parking Authority, AJD Construction, Elkus Architects, Investors Bank, AEGON, CITI and TD Bank.
Office: Vision Real Estate Partners’ and Rubenstein Partners’ redevelopment and sale of The Crossings at Jefferson Park, a 525,000-square-foot suburban office campus in Whippany, to Barclays PLC. The transaction, which involves more than 3,000 jobs, included Vision Real Estate Partners, Rubenstein Partners, Barclays, Cushman & Wakefield, JLL and Gensler.
Industrial: BridgePort 1 Logistics Center in Perth Amboy, a 103-acre brownfield redevelopment that required major environmental and geotechnical remediation to become a modern, 1.3 million-square-foot complex that is home to Target Corp. Honorees included Bridge Development Partners, CBRE, Banner Oak Capital Partners, Teachers Retirement System of Texas, Wells Fargo, Heitman Capital Management, Premier Design Build Group, Menlo Engineering Associates, SESI Consulting Engineers, Excel Environmental Resources, Melick-Tully & Associates, Lane Miller Esq., Wanda Monahan, Esq., and the city of Perth Amboy.
Even before the Deal of the Year awards were announced, Milanaik heaped praise on the team of Bridge executives and service professionals who have helped the firm establish itself as a leading industrial developer only about four years after launching in New Jersey.
“When I look back at what my Bridge team has accomplished in just a few short years, it is truly amazing, but not really surprising,” Milanaik said as he accepted the Impact Award. “People say we were smart enough to jump on the wave, but honestly, who really knew?”
Danzig, who has been a New Jersey industrial broker with Cushman & Wakefield for more than 35 years, also highlighted the quickly changing nature of the state’s warehouse and distribution sector. He said he was accepting the Industry Service Award on behalf of “everyone who has contributed to our state’s enviable position as one of the country’s most robust and sought after industrial hubs.”
“So much has changed for our industry in recent years,” Danzig said. “Today’s industrial sector, long in the shadow of other product types, is attracting the largest and most savvy tenants, developers and investors. Deal-making and the product itself have become incredibly sophisticated.
“This demands excellence by industrial brokers, and in New Jersey, we have risen to that occasion.”
For Hanson, the Lifetime Achievement Award comes four days after he was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. As he did on Sunday, he highlighted his family and the fact that the business has now spanned four generations of Hansons.
He also recounted the principles that his father, James E. Hanson, instilled in him as he brought him into the family business six decades ago: Work hard. Negotiate hard. When you make a deal, you shake hands, you do not re-trade. Don’t make a deal so sweet you can’t close it. And leave a little for the next guy.
“And he said you’d be surprised how often the next guy will call you and say, ‘Remember that deal we did? Well, I’ve got a property that I’d like to sell to you, or I’d like to venture with you,’ ” Hanson said. “So those are the principles that I was given. Those are the principles at Hampshire. I’m not retiring, but I do treasure the award.”
In addition to founding Hampshire, one of the state’s most active and well-respected development firms, Hanson is known for his behind-the-scenes work in economic development. He served as chair of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority in the 1980s under Gov. Tom Kean, leading the negotiations to bring the New York Jets and the New Jersey Devils to the Meadowlands Sports Complex.
Under the Chris Christie administration, Hanson chaired a commission on gaming, sports and entertainment and led negotiations with Triple Five Group to revive the failed Xanadu project at the Meadowlands, which is currently under construction as American Dream and slated to open next year. He also oversaw efforts to help Atlantic City and the creation of the Atlantic City Development Corp., which is building the $220 million Atlantic City Gateway project to bring Stockton University and South Jersey Gas to the resort town.
“Although much has changed about New Jersey in the 60 plus years that my dad has been doing business here, his passion, vision and relentlessness have remained steadfast,” said James E. Hanson II, CEO of Morristown-based Hampshire. “These ideals have guided his work each day and allowed him to work with government officials, fellow real estate developers and leading companies to bring tangible and sustainable growth to our state to make it a better place for families and business alike.
“My dad comes to work every day with the same passion and energy as when he first started our company. Everyone at Hampshire has benefitted from my dad’s invaluable guidance. We congratulate him on this deeply deserved honor and thank him for his continued contributions to our organization, our industry and to our state.”