Eric Dinenberg, executive vice president of development, construction and operations for Rouse Properties, was honored Thursday night during the annual Leadership Excellence Awards Dinner at Monmouth University’s Kislak Real Estate Institute.
By Joshua Burd
Eric Dinenberg introduced himself as a “retail guy,” as he is known in commercial real estate circles, before noting that “we are in one of the most transitional moments in our industry’s history” as a result of profound changes in how we shop, live and work.
But he said it’s a transition that needs to be embraced.
“All of this change going on around us — it creates a tremendous amount on anxiety,” said Dinenberg, executive vice president of development, construction and operations for Rouse Properties. “But with that anxiety comes a lot of opportunity. It becomes our blank canvas to rethink everything that planners, engineers and politicians thought about 50 to 60 years ago when they were creating the original version of the great American mall.”
The message has been a common theme for Dinenberg, whose firm is partnering with the Kushner Cos. to reposition the Monmouth Mall in Eatontown. He brought that message to a venue just a few miles away on Thursday night, as he was recognized during Monmouth University’s annual real estate awards dinner in West Long Branch.
“That’s how we want to think about the future — that we get to start over, that we get to build what is going to define how we shop, how we live, how we do everything in our lives not tomorrow, but 20 or 30 years from now,” he said. “And that’s what we want to do in all of our projects across the country, but most importantly in a wonderful community such as this.”
Dinenberg received this year’s Leadership Excellence Award from Monmouth’s Kislak Real Estate Institute, which marked the 25th year of the popular dinner. The event drew a registered crowd of more than 500, including some of the state’s most influential developers and service professionals, while supporting scholarships for the school’s longtime real estate program.
Donald Moliver, dean of the Leon Hess Business School at Monmouth, touted the growth of the program and the success of students who have found jobs in real estate after graduating. He offered special praise to the industry leaders who support the institute through financial contributions and through teaching and advisory roles, including some late industry giants.
“The institute’s success is really based on the efforts of many people, too numerous to mention, but many of you are here this evening,” Moliver said. “Some are not, including the venerable icons such as Arthur Greenbaum and Kevork Hovnanian.
“Notwithstanding, your sustained support has enabled us to become — with no false modesty — one of the preeminent real estate programs in the country,” he added. “We’ve come a long way. We thank you for your continued support. It’s real, it’s tangible and it makes a difference.”
The university’s degree program specific to real estate has grown from six students in its inaugural class in 2006 to more than 100. One recent graduate, MariaGrace Iantosca, was on hand as part of Thursday’s event to share her experiences at the Kislak institute and now as a broker with Cushman & Wakefield.
Peter Reinhart, the institute’s director, also announced that next year’s awards dinner will honor Somerset Development President Ralph Zucker, who has overseen the redevelopment of the historic Bell Labs campus in nearby Holmdel. In introducing this year’s honoree, Reinhart highlighted Dinenberg’s work in both Monmouth County and at retail properties all over the country.
“He is clearly one of the rising stars in our industry and we are very proud and honored this year to bestow our Leadership Excellence Award on Eric Dinenberg,” Reinhart said.
Rouse Properties and Kushner Cos., which are still seeking local approvals to revamping the Monmouth Mall, have appeared before the Eatontown planning board in recent weeks. Their plans call for repositioning the property as The Heights at Monmouth, which includes a mix of upscale shopping, dining, entertainment and leisure, along with some 700 apartments and community space.
Rouse, which is owned by affiliates of Brookfield Asset Management, became involved with the project last year. Some Eatontown residents have publicly opposed the plans for the property at Route 35, Route 36 and Wyckoff Road, voicing concerns about traffic and the influx of new residential units.