By Joshua Burd
Before thanking a long list of executives, attorneys and others who are behind one of New Jersey’s largest redevelopment projects, Eugene Diaz made mention of the company that gave rise to the opportunity in the first place.
The company, Hoffman LaRoche, made certain to do the right thing after delivering some rather sobering news to the communities of Nutley and Clifton.
“This deal wouldn’t have even gotten off the ground if it were not for Roche pharmaceuticals’ patience and commitment to their legacy at this campus,” said Diaz, principal of Prism Capital Partners. “We can’t be happy they left New Jersey, but they did it in a first-class fashion, preserving for the municipalities who lost them the greatest opportunity for redevelopment.”
Five years after Roche delivered that news, hundreds of real estate professionals gathered to celebrate plans to transform the 116-acre former headquarters and R&D hub along Route 3. Prism’s plan, which calls for creating a vibrant, mixed-use campus, was honored as a Deal of the Year during NAIOP New Jersey’s annual commercial real estate gala on Thursday.
It was one of three awards unveiled during the event, which also honored two late industry icons, Arthur Greenbaum and Caren Franzini. The program also recognized three of the state’s leading service firms — JLL, Biggins Lacy Shapiro & Co. LLC and Hollister Construction — before a packed house at The Palace at Somerset Park in Franklin.
All told, some 850 industry leaders and professionals registered for the NAIOP gala, one of the can’t-miss networking events for New Jersey’s commercial real estate sector.
“It’s the one time when we’re all together in the same place. It’s pretty incredible,” said Rob Kossar, executive managing director and market leader with JLL in New Jersey, who accepted the organization’s Impact Award on behalf of the real estate services firm.
“It is really meaningful and important for our firm to be recognized holistically about the impact that we have on the industry,” Kossar said, “as opposed to a select group and a select project.”
The Mixed-Use Deal of the Year award honored the successful sale of the former Roche campus, recognizing a list of stakeholders that included Prism, a Boston-based investment manager, JLL, Hackensack Meridian Health, Seton Hall University, Fox Rothschild LLP, Real Estate Strategies Group LLC, Franzini Consulting LLC, Cushman & Wakefield, Windels Marx, Connell Foley LLP and Inglesino, Webster, Wyciskala & Taylor LLC.
The Industrial Deal of the Year went to a 495,000-square-foot lease that brought Blue Apron, the meal kit delivery service, to the Legacy Commerce Center in Linden. As such, NAIOP recognized Duke Realty, the redeveloper of a former General Motors assembly plant at the site, along with CBRE and Blue Apron.
“Taking an old industrial car manufacturing plant and transforming it into a state-of-the-art e-commerce facility really shows what the future of New Jersey is,” said Bill Waxman, executive vice president with CBRE. “And to be a part of creating over 2,100 jobs makes us all very proud.”
NAIOP also announced the Office Deal of the Year, which recognized Normandy Real Estate Partners, Unilever and OVG Real Estate for the redevelopment of 700 and 800 Sylvan Ave. in Englewood Cliffs. Along with Cushman & Wakefield, the firms are behind a two-pronged redevelopment effort at the properties, which will result in a new modern headquarters campus for the consumer products giant.
Along with the coveted Deal of the Year honors, NAIOP presented its Industry Service Awards to Hollister Construction and Biggins Lacy Shapiro & Co. LLC. Hollister CEO Chris Johnson and BLS Executive Managing Director Jay Biggins accepted the awards for their respective firms.
The program also included a Lifetime Achievement Award for Greenbaum, a giant of New Jersey real estate and law and co-founder of Greenbaum Rowe Smith & Davis LLP, who died last month at age 91.
His daughter, Nancy Greenbaum, was on hand to receive the award. She recalled her earliest memories of her father’s distinguished career, when the firm consisted of just a handful of founding family members in a small office in downtown Newark.
“At the time, my brother David and I were too young to understand the true nature of my dad’s work, but we came to realize that whenever he talked about his clients, earning their respect was the No. 1 item at the core of the conversation,” she said. “As a lawyer and as an individual, ethics and integrity were his priorities. What lucky kids we were to have such a role model.”
Greenbaum added that “some of his clients became enduring and loyal friends.”
Thursday’s gala also honored Franzini, the former CEO of the state Economic Development Authority, who died in late January. She became a revered leader in New Jersey commercial real estate as she led the EDA for nearly 20 years, a role that allowed her to grow the authority into one of the state’s most influential government organizations and partners for the industry.
Tim Lizura, president and chief operating officer of the EDA, presented an award to Franzini’s husband John Franzini, but only after paying tribute to her as “my mentor and my friend.” Aside from being “a compassionate and dynamic leader,” Lizura said her role in the industry was critical, calling her the person “who could pull a whole bunch of people together and get the job done.”
Her legacy is evident throughout the state.
“Drive through Camden, Newark, Jersey City, Trenton and every city in between, you’ll see the handiwork of Caren Franzini,” Lizura said. “She leveraged billions of dollars, helped create hundreds of thousands of jobs, made communities better and gave better security to families all across New Jersey.”