HLW’s recent New Jersey projects include a redesign of Brown Brothers Harriman’s office in Jersey City, where it created a standalone business hub that paid tribute to the private bank’s history. The vision for the space was meant to emphasize a welcoming, branded environment to support flexible, agile and collaborative work. — Courtesy: HLW
By David Gill
The results are undeniable.
In the five years since HLW International established its New Jersey office in Madison, the firm has become a trusted resource in the state’s architecture and interior design industry. It has undertaken projects for well-known companies such as Brown Brothers Harriman, Prudential Financial, Samsung and UPS, while working on behalf of commercial real estate firms such as Mack-Cali Realty Corp., Lincoln Equities Group and Gaia Real Estate.
Since the Madison office opened in 2014, it has grown from one person — Kimberly Sacramone, principal and managing director — to 32. The location has become a key contributor of business to an international company whose other offices include its New York City headquarters, along with locations in London, Los Angeles and Shanghai.
“We thought it imperative to provide dedication and the best quality service to our clients through dedicating resources to a New Jersey office again,” Sacramone said. The firm had been present in New Jersey prior to opening in Madison, having previously operated offices in Newark and Basking Ridge that were closed and left a void in the Garden State.
In choosing Sacramone to spearhead the development of the new office, HLW selected someone who came to the effort with strong credentials and a lifelong background in New Jersey. Born and raised in Hillsdale, she joined HLW in November 1996, four years after graduating from Drexel University with a bachelor’s in interior architecture.
Along with establishing herself as a certified interior designer, Sacramone is a member of Corenet, the global association for the corporate real estate profession. She has also championed projects that achieve certification on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design scale, a rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, since 2007.
Sacramone’s career also includes several honors. In 2004, she was identified as a future leader and named to the “Ten to Watch” list by the International Interior Design Association. She has also earned recognition as a female business leader from the Women Builders Council and NJBIZ, among others.
The New Jersey office has been a standout for HLW since its earliest days.
“Our first project was the 200,000-square-foot UPS Innovation Center in Parsippany,” Sacramone said. “Our team designed the base building as well as the interior, which showcases the breadth of our services.”
The project went on to win the United Way Impact Award in 2016. Sacramone herself was named a member of the board of the United Way of Northern New Jersey, partly for her efforts as a member of the United Way Commercial Real Estate Network’s steering committee.
Much of the success of the Madison office, Sacramone said, is due to its ability to combine a localized outlook on the New Jersey market with the resources of a global business. Along with the team in Madison, “our New York City headquarters provides our corporate services including human resources, finance, legal, IT as well as other design services such as lighting, sustainability, specifications and discovery,” she said. “This allows our office the benefits of a boutique design firm with global large-firm resources.”
The industry veteran has also employed the HLW corporate philosophy while building the local office.
“Team culture is tremendously important to us and therefore we are selective with regard to additions to our group,” Sacramone said. “We feel it is all about good chemistry. We don’t want to hire to simply fill staffing needs on a project. We hire for the long term.”
Broadly speaking, she attributes HLW’s success to an intense focus on its customers.
“‘Our work tells your story’ is our firm’s guiding design philosophy,” she said. “Our purpose is to tell the unique stories of our clients through inventive and responsive design.”
The firm’s design philosophy has also broadened its customer base across several industries.
“HLW’s tailored project approach and creative design solutions have allowed us to work across a wide variety of sectors, from technology and broadcast companies to hospitality and higher education,” Sacramone said, noting that the firm combines an “agile and collaborative process” with its global reach and resources.
While HLW’s Madison office has maintained an upward financial trajectory since its opening, its future depends on the shape of the overall real estate market in the state, Sacramone said. That being said, the firm is making moves that it hopes will maintain its growth in the business.
“We have a depth of bench in working within the technology, life science and fintech sectors and have a strong pipeline in the market,” Sacramone said. “As a diverse organization, we are expanding into high-rise residential projects, partnering with my colleague, Ed Shim (principal and managing director of HLW’s New York office).”