Bell Works at 101 Crawfords Corner Road in Holmdel — Courtesy: Somerset Development
By Joshua Burd
Commercial real estate leaders gathered Thursday in Holmdel, where NAIOP New Jersey honored several companies as the industry took a key step in moving beyond the pandemic.
With a registered crowd of more than 200, the association welcomed members to the sprawling Bell Works campus for a special edition of its annual President’s Awards Reception. The event marked the organization’s first large in-person gathering since before the COVID-19 crisis, providing a chance for owners and service providers to reconnect after more than a year.
“People were itching to get out,” NAIOP New Jersey CEO Michael McGuinness said, noting that his team had polled members throughout the winter and early spring about their comfort level with such an event. The organization decided around late January to move forward with the program, he said, as it monitored the state’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We were constantly talking to people,” McGuinness said, later adding: ‘We figured it would be choppy for a couple of months, but we did figure that by June, we’d be in a good place.”
Typically held in the fall, the President’s Awards event is among NAIOP New Jersey’s largest in terms of crowd size, but was canceled last year as the chapter shuffled its schedule and pivoted to virtual programming. Thursday’s event honored several key companies and organizations — Alfred Sanzari Enterprises, CBRE, Elberon Development Group, Kushner Real Estate Group, Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Rutgers University and Sills Cummis & Gross PC — thanks in part to their contributions to the commercial real estate industry association.
The chapter also inducted James Hughes, the renowned economist and dean emeritus at Rutgers’ Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, into its hall of fame.
McGuinness noted that Bell Works, owned by Somerset Development, was an ideal choice for hosting the chapter’s first in-person event coming out of the pandemic. The 2 million-square-foot building, with its vast atrium and outdoor spaces, provided a setting that would help attendees feel comfortable, while Somerset President Ralph Zucker is a longtime NAIOP member who was able to provide the association with much-needed flexibility.
The chapter expects to continue its transition to in-person events, McGuinness said, starting with its Regulatory, Legislative & Legal Update on July 14 at the Carpenters Apprentice Training Center in Edison. That will continue with high-profile events in the fall, including its 34th annual commercial real estate awards gala in October and I.CON East in November.