From left: John Mercurio, principal and executive vice president; Ed Walsh, president; and Hoon Lee, director, are part of the leadership team at the Walsh Company in Morristown. – Photo by Aaron Houston for Real Estate NJ
By Joshua Burd
Along with a timeline that shows more than 15 years of company history, the wall outside the Walsh Company’s office is adorned with dozens of photos of golf outings, holiday parties and other events with familiar faces in New Jersey’s commercial real estate industry.
It’s a reminder that Ed Walsh is a man with many friends and decades of experience — two things that helped immeasurably when he relaunched his business last September. The construction and project management firm enjoyed a fast start at the time, with a list of projects that allowed him to quickly assemble the team at his Morristown office.
“Last time I started it probably took me three years to get to 15 people, whereas this has happened almost immediately,” Walsh said during an interview in late November. “It is interesting, in that I feel like a lot of people are trying to help, which I feel great about.”
With a team that has since grown to 18, he is now refilling his pipeline after his 2018 departure from Avison Young, the real estate services firm, which acquired the original Walsh Company in 2012. Its newest assignments include roles as a general contractor, project manager and client representative, but Walsh has also set his sights on an altogether new business: a platform known as PoE lighting, which uses network cables to power LED lights and provide users with greater control, efficiency and transparency than traditional fixtures.
He has undoubtedly bought into the concept. The firm’s 5,000-square-foot office in Morristown includes a retail storefront along Speedwell Avenue, which serves as the showroom for Walsh PoE Lighting, giving way to a sleek office space that is outfitted with the technology.
“I went to see it and I fell in love with it right away,” Walsh said, recalling his visit to a PoE lighting showroom in Staten Island, in late 2018, after he had left Avison Young. It’s largely why, despite keeping a low profile for several months, he saw the potential to combine the new niche with his old expertise.
“I knew that was going to be a big part of the business,” Walsh, the firm’s president, said of PoE lighting. “But I never wanted to give up on the project management and construction because it is a big part of what I do and people know that I do that.”
Walsh’s early career included more than a decade with Gale & Wentworth, the development and real estate investment firm, preceding the launch of his own business in 2003. Among its many achievements over the next decade, the Walsh Company completed or managed projects in New Jersey for the likes of BASF, Panasonic Corp. of North America, Wyndham Worldwide and Reckitt Benckiser.
That success went hand in hand with Walsh’s network of influential developers, brokers and other industry professionals. Robert Klausner, an attorney with Fox Rothschild LLP, said Walsh is distinctive for his ability to sell his services, but do so “in a genuine way.”
“He’s a world-class salesman,” said Klausner, who is also based in Morristown. “He loves getting people together to celebrate the victories, which is important because so many times we take for granted the victories and only look at our losses. And Eddie is just one of those guys that celebrates the victories, whether they’re his own or others’.”
By the time Walsh sold his firm to Avison Young, it had grown to more than 50 professionals in fields such as construction, site planning, furniture and interior design, with offices in Boston, Washington, D.C., and Westchester County. That expertise and that network was undoubtedly attractive to the Toronto-based brokerage as it looked to expand in the Northeast.
Walsh continued to lead a robust project management practice during nearly six years with Avison Young. After his departure in summer 2018, which he declined to discuss, he stepped back from the industry as he mulled his next move.
It was over the next several months that he laid the groundwork for his new lighting business, one that he feels is a major opportunity. Short for Power over Ethernet, PoE lighting uses the same types of cables that are commonly used for file sharing and Internet access, providing additional benefits beyond a traditional fixture.
“What people that aren’t in the business don’t realize is that (the Ethernet cable) carries power,” he said during a recent demonstration. That allows the cable to not only power LED lights, but transmit data and allow an operator to control them using a computer or another device.
Walsh said the concept is taking hold in New York City and has great potential in untapped markets like New Jersey. In the education sector, where studies have found links between lighting and learning, he said the platform would allow staff and administrators to adjust the settings based on classroom activity. He added that the system collects data using sensors to detect the presence of people and can switch off the lights when an area is not in use.
Those features can also pave the way for better energy management.
“Energy codes are getting more stringent,” said Hoon Lee, a director with the Walsh Company. “They want better controls, they want better sensors, so there’s a whole additional layer of not just the power going there, but the control side.”
That’s not to mention the cost-savings on labor and usage that come from using a PoE platform, Walsh said. He noted that Ethernet cables are now able to provide power well beyond what a single LED light requires, allowing a single wire to power multiple lights.
“It saves on operating expenses,” Walsh said. “Plus, you also get information about your space that you didn’t have before, where people are sitting, how the space is being utilized, if conference rooms are being used, because you have all of these sensors in your ceiling — all because you put your lighting system in.”
Since the showroom opened last fall, Walsh has welcomed architects, engineers, lighting designers and contractors for presentations on the concept, which have since yielded results for the business. The firm announced in early May that it was selected by the Cheder School in Clifton to perform a PoE lighting integration and general contracting services for interior renovations and site improvements.
It’s also working on a 60,000-square-foot interior corporate office fit-out with all PoE lighting, including the emergency lights, Walsh said. The undisclosed client has tapped the firm to design and install the entire lighting system.
Walsh and his team expect that there is more to come.
“I’ve been through all of it,” said Lee, an architect who has worked with Walsh starting in 2010, serving in project and construction management roles. “PoE lighting is a new thing for me, but it’s really the future of things.”
Walsh said he’s now looking forward to growing the entire company, but believes the PoE business “is a perfect opportunity to open in other cities across the country.” Earlier this year, he was in the midst of considering cities and markets such as Nashville, Charlotte and South Florida, where he sees upside like he does in New Jersey.
In the meantime, he remains focused on the areas that helped him be successful for some two decades. Soon after relaunching the company, Walsh quickly recruited a team to oversee its growing construction and project management pipeline. That includes several longtime colleagues and family members including his brother-in-law, nephew and an assistant of more than 10 years, along with two technical experts specifically for PoE lighting.
The firm’s construction business has proved to be critical in the early going, Walsh said, noting that he planned to focus on being a general contractor. Its first projects after relaunching included a ground-up retail development in Kearny, which comprised a 6,500-square-foot strip center and a freestanding 2,500-square-foot building. The company is also working on behalf of Newmark Knight Frank to renovate and expand its New Jersey headquarters in Rutherford, in a project that spans roughly 25,000 square feet.
As an owner’s representative, the Walsh Company is spearheading the build-out of the New Jersey Hall of Fame’s future home at the American Dream project in East Rutherford, along with a renovation and expansion at Delbarton School in Morristown.
“I think we’re going to see Eddie dominate the field again,” said Klausner, who has worked with Walsh through mutual clients, during an interview in late February. “I think there’s a need and he’s hitting the market at the right time.”
To be sure, Walsh’s contacts and longstanding relationships have played a role in securing those assignments. For instance, he credited Jon F. Hanson of The Hampshire Cos. with helping him secure the New Jersey Hall of Fame contract. For the Kearny retail project, he cited Cushman & Wakefield broker Andy Merin’s role in connecting him with the property’s owner.
“Every industry has a couple of those people, where everybody in the industry likes them,” Klausner said. “Eddie is just one of those guys. When you do good, quality work and then you have that good-hearted nature and charisma, you’re going to be successful.
“This iteration of Eddie Walsh is going to actually be better than the first one, just because you learn a lot as you get older. And the group of people that he’s surrounding himself with, I think, are higher-quality than ever before.”
Ed Walsh is no stranger to Morristown. It was the home of the Walsh Company for nearly a decade and where his team remained once he sold the firm to Avison Young in 2012.
That made it a natural choice as he looked ahead to relaunching his own business, but he did not originally consider the retail storefront that he now occupies at 22 Speedwell Ave. Then he considered the needs of his newest venture, Walsh PoE Lighting.
“Once I realized that we are in the lighting sales business, I did fit into this retail space,” said Walsh, who now has a 1,000-square-foot showroom as part of his 5,000 square feet.
The firm’s office space is equally important and also serves as a sort of showroom to anyone considering the Walsh Company for its own corporate fit-out. Along with its exposed brick and high ceilings, the office features open workstations, inviting lounge furniture and a bar.
Walsh notes that he was inspired after visiting a well-known co-working operator soon after he left Avison Young.
“The open office concept is pretty common these days, but the warm feeling and the openness, I took a little bit from WeWork,” he said. “That was the first time I really went in there and saw what they were doing — and it was amazing.”