As you might imagine, I’m usually the one asking the questions when it comes to commercial real estate. But occasionally people will flip the script and ask me what I’m seeing in the market.
My response is almost never about vacancy rates or construction pipelines, but about the evolution that’s taking place in just about every segment of the industry. Experiences and entertainment are driving retail absorption. Entrepreneurial new investors are buying and renovating New Jersey’s aging office parks. Suburbs with train stations are attracting the type of mixed-use development that is bringing new residents to their downtowns.
It’s why I’m excited to bring you this latest issue of Real Estate NJ, where we showcase some of the developers and investors that are driving this evolution. Chief among them is Onyx Equities, the value-add firm that has been involved in some high-profile office deals in New Jersey over the past year. Our interview with principals Jon Schultz and John Saraceno will take you back to the company’s founding in 2004, which was just about three years before the economy and the real estate market ground to a halt. I was struck by the way that Saraceno and Schultz reacted to the downturn and came to terms with the idea of not making any new investments for nearly four years, despite the temptation that was probably there for a firm that had promised to put other people’s money to work.
But more than a decade later, Onyx has been involved in some of the state’s well-heralded repositioning projects in office markets such as Basking Ridge and Jersey City, which is why we thought to feature the firm in our April cover story. The notion that the firm started when it did and then reacted to the downturn in such a way may be a testament to the fact that both founders had been established in the industry prior to forming Onyx. And the fact that they used the downturn to create a new business line altogether — a now-thriving REO and receivership services platform — is another angle that we hope to have captured.
You’ll see that our other features this month also tie into our redevelopment theme. On page 16, we look at the two driving forces that are suddenly filling the development pipeline in Bound Brook, a rail-connected town in Somerset County that has been beaten down by decades of storm surges. The obvious driver is the success now being achieved by the pioneering, luxury apartment project that opened there about two years ago. The other is far more unusual — the fact that, after the completion of a long-awaited government flood control project, business owners and developers no longer need flood insurance. That will mean big savings for anyone who is thinking about planting a flag in downtown Bound Brook.
As always, we hope you find these stories both useful and engaging. Our April issue is packed with other columns, insights and updates that speak to everything going on in New Jersey’s commercial real estate sector, but also the challenges that remain. You can find it all in the pages that follow and online at www.RE-NJ.com. We appreciate your feedback, news and story ideas and we look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for reading!