Ralph Zucker and Anthony Marchetta
By Joshua Burd
For someone who is known to think big, Ralph Zucker offered a rather simple view on being a developer.
The job is about places and people, he said, citing the important link between the two.
“Those places mean very little without the people who inhabit them,” said Zucker, the president of Somerset Development, speaking Thursday during Monmouth University’s annual real estate awards dinner. “It is you and I, our clients and our customers.
“At Somerset Development, we like to say that we are in the business of creating great places for great people. It behooves us all from time to time to focus not just on the bottom line, but on the people that we are building these places for, to recognize that we are going to affect their lives for so many years to come.”
That belief has served as a pillar for the landmark Bell Works campus in Holmdel, among other high-profile projects by Zucker and his team, many of which were on display Thursday as he was honored by Monmouth’s Kislak Real Estate Institute. A crowd of roughly 500 industry executives and professionals turned out as the school presented the developer with its Leadership Excellence Award, part of its 26th Leadership Excellence Award Dinner.
Zucker was honored alongside Anthony Marchetta, a longtime development executive and the former executive director of the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency. Receiving the Service to the Industry Award, Marchetta also recounted what he saw as a common theme over some four decades spent working in both government and the private sector.
“The real estate industry has always given me the opportunity to have a career where creativity, hard work and wonderful co-workers would confront challenges,” Marchetta said. He added that the industry “is a special place, in my mind,” pointing to Zucker’s efforts in readapting the 2 million-square-foot, formerly vacant Bell Labs campus into an emerging mixed-use hub.
“I know those types of projects take a lot of grit, hard work and guts,” Marchetta said. “And I’m proud to be on the dais with Ralph tonight.”
The annual program helps fund scholarships for the school’s real estate program, which has long drawn the support of the state’s top developers and service professionals. Besides honoring Zucker and Marchetta, Kislak Institute Director Peter Reinhart announced scholarship funding from the Industrial & Office Real Estate Brokers Association, or IOREBA, and Somerset Development, among others.
Reinhart also paid tribute to Jay I. Kislak, the iconic executive and founding benefactor of the real estate program, who died last fall. Additionally, the university unveiled the newly dedicated Arthur M. Greenbaum Bridge connecting the business school’s two main buildings, honoring the late co-founder of Greenbaum Rowe Smith & Davis LLP and longtime supporter of the university.
“He was a connector of ideas, people and hearts,” Donald Moliver, dean of Monmouth’s Leon Hess Business School, said of Greenbaum, who was given the Kislak Institute’s original Leadership Excellence Award in 1994.
Acknowledging the large crowd on hand, several speakers touted the importance of friendships and collaboration in New Jersey’s tight-knit commercial real estate industry. Zucker was no exception, highlighting his team at Somerset Development and the host of professionals that work on projects such as Bell Works.
One of those professionals, Michael Bruno, pointed to not only Zucker’s vision as a developer, but the personal attributes that he believes makes him successful.
“Building relationships, making good on your promises and impacting people’s lives in positive ways by creating places that bring light to people’s lives are all the qualities that Ralph lives by every day,” said Bruno, a shareholder with Giordano Halleran & Ciesla PC in Red Bank. “He saw the magic in the bones of the empty 2 million-square-foot office space known as Bell Labs and transformed it into Bell Works, the now new standard for office buildings in suburbia.”