Tomorrow’s commercial real estate leaders provided a glimpse of their vision for the state’s redevelopment as NAIOP New Jersey presented its first annual “Dinosaurs to Diamonds” Student Challenge. The commercial real estate development association announced the winner of the competition during its March 24 chapter meeting, held at the Pines Manor in Edison.
The meeting provided a forum for the challenges of finding new uses for the state’s outdated and underutilized suburban office spaces. Keynote remarks from Mayor John McCormac of Woodbridge and Mayor Wilda Diaz of Perth Amboy highlighted recent successes and future opportunities for partnering with commercial real estate professionals to create the live/work/play environments that attract and retain employers and the young talent they need. McCormac and Diaz served as judges for the student design competition, which was sponsored by SJP Properties.
In his opening remarks, Dave Gibbons of Elberon Development Group, NAIOP NJ’s vice president of public affairs, said, “We appreciate the support these local officials provided for this initiative. We remain focused on seeking greater engagement with mayors, council members, freeholders, and town planners in our efforts to be a valuable resource for communities struggling with the impacts of dramatically evolving demographics, market conditions and technology.”
Mayor Diaz, who serves as president of the Urban Mayors Association and chairs a number of public policy committees for the New Jersey League of Municipalities, discussed the revitalization taking place in Perth Amboy, boosted by the renovation of its train station and redevelopment of the areas surrounding it. “It’s an exciting time with many economic opportunities for us,” said Diaz. “New construction projects are employing our residents, and areas of our community that have been vacant for decades are now being looked at.”
Diaz noted that serving as a judge was a “refreshing experience. Looking at the plans and seeing how creative and well thought out they are, I have no doubt New Jersey will be a better place because of these students.”
Mayor McCormac, a former New Jersey state treasurer, said that while economic development has been strong, the best is yet to come. “There has been a great deal of redevelopment in Woodbridge during the last several years, and we welcome the opportunity to work with developers to continue to attract more business.” McCormac congratulated the students on the commercial viability of their designs, and thanked NAIOP for choosing a project in his municipality.
Three teams of graduate students accepted the challenge to re-imagine an existing suburban office space, located near the Metropark Station in Woodbridge Township, to realize its full economic potential in today’s market. The runners-up were Matthew Knight and Michael Martone from the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, and Adam Haese and Bill Simcox from Monmouth University.
The winning team of Mark Bauer, Newcome Edwards and Arturo Hernandez-Sangregorio from Rutgers-Bloustein presented a mixed-use development that addressed environmental concerns and traffic flow issues, while simultaneously incorporating sustainable technologies and green space. Gibbons presented the $5,000 prize to the winners.
“When we considered the challenge of turning real estate dinosaurs into diamonds, it made sense to turn to the generations that will work, live and play in these environments,“ said NAIOP NJ CEO Michael McGuinness. “Our goal was to engage municipal and development leaders in a productive conversation with the leaders of tomorrow. Based on what we’ve seen and heard here tonight, it’s clear this was a valuable experience for everyone involved.”