An entrepreneur and activist, Wendy Neu has worked at Hugo Neu for more than 30 years, in part with her late husband John L. Neu, who served as chairman until his death in February 2013. In her role as chairman and CEO of the Hugo Neu group, Neu leads the companies in all aspects of strategy and development. The company is perhaps best known now as the operator of approximately 2.4 million square feet of prime warehouse and distribution facilities in New Jersey through its subsidiary, Kearny Point Industrial Park, at its strategically located 130-acre facility in South Kearny. Neu has led efforts to ensure that Hugo Neu’s recycling operations meet and exceed state and federal regulatory standards and has actively advocated for raising standards in the industry as a whole. She was instrumental in Hugo Neu’s 2002 effort to create an economically sustainable curbside recycling program for New York City and has also been a leader in electronic recycling as chairman of Hugo Neu’s then-WeRecycle! subsidiary, since Hugo Neu acquired the business in 2009. Neu has been honored by numerous industry and environmental groups, including NY/NJ Baykeeper (on whose board she presently serves), the New York League of Conservation Voters and Earth Day 2006.
As head of the Department of Community Affairs, Lt. Gov. Oliver leads an agency that governs how New Jersey’s 565 municipalities operate. In 2016, the DCA took control of Atlantic City’s governance as the resort town struggled with a junk rating on its bonds and teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. The takeover was promoted by then-Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, supported by South Jersey Democrats, and authorized under the Municipal Rehabilitation and Economic Recovery Act – enacted in 2002 to allow the state takeover of Camden. The law grants the DCA the power to override decisions by the city council, abolish city agencies, seize and sell assets – such as the city’s valuable water works – hire and fire employees, break union contracts and restructure city debt. Oliver, the governor’s special counsel Jim Johnson (who began a new role as corporation counsel for New York City on Nov. 4) and city officials have maintained that their approach to the relationship would be collaborative rather than the top-down style under Christie. But it will last at least the full five years that Christie planned, and a recent corruption scandal that pushed Mayor Frank Gilliam out of office in October has called into question whether the city still has the ability to properly govern itself. So long as Oliver is at the helm of the DCA, residents and observers of the struggling city will look to her for next direction.
Pozycki, the founder, chairman and CEO of SJP Properties, burnished his reputation by building office and residential properties in New Jersey before making a big move into New York with 11 Times Square. The 40-story, 1.2 million-square-foot tower opened in the middle of the Great Recession, but eventually became a success with tenants including Microsoft, e*Trade and the Proskauer Rose law firm. But Pozycki and SJP have not completely forsaken New Jersey. The firm announced plans last year to redevelop the former Westinghouse property in Newark and continues to be a major player in Jersey City, Hoboken and Morristown.
In 2016, the long-stalled American Dream megamall project needed money again. Owner Triple Five was trying to obtain $1 billion more in financing to help fund the project, and construction, which reportedly cost $1 million a day at the time. Enter the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, which gave the mall a healthy boost: an $800 million bond, issued in 2017. The funds weren’t targeted for any specific type of improvement, but construction ensued, and the mall finally opened (at least partially) last month. Vincent Prieto is president and chief executive for NJSEA, which was not only the entity that negotiated the lease with Triple Five after myriad developers backed out, but owns the land lease for the mall and the adjacent MetLife Sports Complex, including Meadowlands Racetrack and Meadowlands Arena. Millions of millions of people have sought entertainment here over the past 40 years; and if all goes according to plan, the mall will draw millions more.
Reinhart joined R.J. Brunelli & Co. LLC in April 2019 as executive vice president for the retail real estate brokerage’s new Mixed Use & Land Division, which will work with homebuilders, developers, owners, buyers and tenants on all aspects of mixed-use developments. But he has a long history in the state’s commercial real estate sector, with 33 years at Hovnanian Enterprises, serving as senior vice president, general counsel and a director with New Jersey’s top home builder. He will remain as director of the Kislak Real Estate Institute at Monmouth University—the longest running real estate degree program in New Jersey. Reinhart is also of counsel at Greenbaum Rowe Smith & Davis and a director of Four Springs Capital, a private REIT.
Rosenberg is the driving force behind the growth of DMR Architects. As president and CEO, he leads the 40-plus person team at DMR, which celebrated five consecutive listings as the fifth-ranking New Jersey architectural firm; and a national ranking on Real Estate Forum’s 2016 Fastest Growing Companies. When Rosenberg founded the firm in 1991, it was a three-person operation focused solely on designing schools and educational facilities. Over the years, he steadily added talent, enabling DMR to expand its capabilities, which now includes architectural design for the education, corporate, public, health care and residential sectors, as well as advanced sustainable design and a thriving redevelopment and urban planning department. For 28 years, Rosenberg has overseen DMR’s thousands of design and construction projects, which represent hundreds of millions of dollars in construction work. Among these projects are many that have had a great impact on the landscape of New Jersey, including the State’s first nature museum; the first school for the blind and the first LEED certified public school; Bergen County’s first brewery; the rail station that first brought train service to the Meadowlands; and the new Frank J. Gargiulo Campus in Secaucus, the $150 million vocational/technical high school in Hudson County, one of the most technologically advanced schools in the country. The thousands of other projects completed under Rosenberg’s direction also include renovations to an elementary school forced to close after Superstorm Sandy and construction oversight of the much-anticipated American Dream project. With more than 55 years of experience, Rosenberg is a leading architect in his own right, professionally registered across the country, and registered in Interior Design and Professional Planning in New Jersey. Individually, his portfolio of award-winning designs includes the 500-acre University in Kaduna, Nigeria valued at more than $500 million.
Jon Saraceno Jr.
Saraceno is co-founder– with partner Jonathan Schultz – and managing principal of Onyx Equities LLC. Since its establishment in 2004, Onyx has acquired more than $3 billion worth of real estate assets throughout New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, and executed over $400 million in asset repositioning projects across all property types. Serving as chief investment strategist, Saraceno directs the firm’s approach to investment and portfolio management. Since Onyx’s inception, he has successfully led its mission to partner with some of the country’s most significant institutional investment firms. In addition, he oversees Onyx’s investment fund arm, which has historically, and continues to, generate fund-level IRR’s in excess of 25 percent. Notable deals completed by Saraceno include the Gateway Center in Newark in which Onyx acquired three of the four buildings that make up the complex. The company’s entry into the Newark office market continues to gain momentum attracting start-up and mature tech-oriented businesses. Onyx also recently announced it, along with Garrison Investment Group, acquired 650 From Road in Paramus, increasing the collaborators’ share of the Bergen County Class A office sub-market to 10.6 percent. The latest acquisition adds to the partnerships’ portfolio of 1.16 million square feet in Bergen County with 254,185-square-foot (approximately 1,271 jobs) in positive absorption via new corporate relocations to the area and 342,674 square feet of renewals and expansions.
Newark was recently named the ninth most vibrant arts community in the nation by Southern Methodist University’s National Center for Arts Research, and the scene is just getting better. The New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s “All Together Now” campaign hit a milestone in October, having raised $100 million over the first two years of a five-year campaign intended to raise $175 million. When president and CEO Schreiber announced the fundraiser he, as a big jazz fan, compared it to jazz artists collaborating. “In order for great jazz to be created, musicians have to listen to each other, collaborate, and inspire one another,” he said at the announcement. “In our own way, the Arts Center does the same thing: We engage collaboratively with our volunteer leaders, donors, community, nonprofit organizations and educational institutions. Everyone has a role to play—and it wouldn’t be the same without any one piece.” Hence the name All Together Now. Some of the $175 million will help underwrite the creation of the Cooperman Family Education and Community Center, a 45,000-square-foot building that will serve as a home for the center’s arts training programs, and will have a theater and rehearsal space for community groups. It will also help develop more than seven acres of NJPAC’s campus, bringing more residential buildings, restaurants, retail stores, and art facilities to Newark’s downtown.
As vice chairman and COO of Newmark Knight Frank, Simson is one of the state’s leading brokers. He has been named as the firm’s top producer in the country twice – in 2010 and 2012. Simsons’ status is evident in the transactions he handles, mainly large deals for big companies and institutions like Allergan, Memorial Sloan Kettering and Realogy. Most recently, his team was tapped to handle leasing at Glenpointe, a 50-acre Class A office, hotel and conference complex in Teaneck and the deal that brought e-commerce linens company Boll & Branch to Summit.
During Sommer’s time as executive vice president of development for Edison Properties, the real estate developer completed the adaptive reuse of its state-of-the-art, 21st century workplace in Newark’s revitalized downtown, Ironside Newark. The more than 450,000-square-foot development has attracted multiple tenants, including a long-term 148,500-square-foot lease with Mars Wrigley Confectionary and law firms Robinson Miller and Pearlman & Miranda. Sommer was the primary face behind the project, in charge of all execution. Although he moved to Cedar Realty Trust to be its senior vice president of development and construction in June, he left a permanent mark on Newark during a time of revitalization.
Stolar is the founder, president, and chief executive officer of The Pinnacle Cos., a development company that operates in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Florida. Stolar founded Pinnacle in 1984 and has built more than 8,000 units of both rental and for-sale products, according to his company’s website. Since 2000, Pinnacle has diversified into mixed-use projects that include retail, office, hotel and residential, which in total comprise over 3 million square feet. Most recently, the company opened the 159-room MC Hotel in Montclair. In 2008, Pinnacle was expanded to include Pinnacle Solutions U.S., a workout development group that has taken on projects totaling over 1.5 million square feet with banks, private lenders, developers, land owners and municipalities to develop properties or to reposition, restructure, resuscitate and restart stalled or failed projects, according to his company’s website.
Sudler is president and CEO of the Sudler Cos., a privately held real estate development company founded in 1907. The Sudler Cos. own and manage over 8 million square feet of office, retail and industrial real estate in eight states. Accomplishments under Sudler’s leadership include three new warehouse and distribution buildings totaling 145,200 square feet at the Lakewood Industrial Park; a big box distribution space of 754,000 square feet on spec in Cranbury; and the 150,000-square-foot headquarters for Colart in Piscataway. That equates to about 904,000-square-foot of new product last year. Sudler is affiliated with the Lexington Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that seeks to inform, educate and shape the public debate of national priorities in the areas of defense, homeland security, military logistics, education reform, tax reform, immigration reform and federal policy concerning science and technology.
Taylor joined Matrix Development Group in 1981 and as CEO and president is responsible for growing Matrix from a single investment in New Jersey – CenterPoint at 8A, an 1800-acre assemblage of commercial, industrial and residential properties – into one of the most successful full-service real estate investment companies in the industry. Under Taylor’s leadership, the company expanded its geographic reach throughout New Jersey and into New York and Pennsylvania, as well as its business base to include a full-service construction firm and a golf and hospitality company. Matrix has developed more than 35 million square feet of commercial, industrial and residential properties and Taylor has received countless awards and recognition for his leadership in the industry, charitable efforts, as well as quality business practices.
Perhaps the biggest complaint New Jerseyans express is about the high cost of living in the state and housing costs always rank among the top contributors. Producing affordable housing is vital to attracting and retaining a skilled and educated workforce and as the executive director of Fair Share Housing Authority, Walsh plays a large role in how residential development takes place in the state. Simply put, no affordable housing settlement is being undertaken without the FSHA having a say. In a broader sense, both FSHA and Walsh could play a role in the retention and growth of the state’s working economy. As such, Walsh and Fair Share Housing Authority hold significant sway in the future of New Jersey. Under Walsh’s direction the FSHA has 275 settlements with municipalities regarding their affordable housing obligations throughout the state. Sixty-five towns to go. That’s record progress four years after the New Jersey Supreme Court’s March 2015 decision. Tens of thousands of new homes will be built throughout the state, with many close to transit. That construction should assist New Jerseyans who struggle with high housing prices and boost the state’s economic competitiveness as employers look for places where their employees can afford to live.
Finn Wentworth and David Welsh
Normandy Real Estate Partners founder Finn Wentworth’s influence continues to expand beyond his firm. Before forming Normandy, Wentworth was president, chief operating officer and board member of YankeeNets LLC, the holding company of the New York Yankees, New Jersey Nets, and New Jersey Devils, where he also helped form the organization’s media company – The Yankee Entertainment and Sports (YES) Network. His more than 35 years of real estate experience includes co-founding Gale & Wentworth, a nationally recognized investment and development firm that assembled a multi-billion dollar property portfolio. David Welsh is also a founder and partner of Normandy, and is known by insiders as the guy that gets the deals done. Before Normandy, Welsh worked at Morgan Stanley where he was primarily responsible for overseeing debt financing activities for the investment bank’s domestic real estate investing business. He also worked at Gale & Wentworth, where he directed acquisitions. Welsh has broad expertise in all facets of real estate, particularly in capital markets, structured finance, distressed debt, acquisitions and development. Normandy, based in Morristown, manages 14 million square feet of properties on behalf of its investors in the New York, Boston and D.C. areas. And although the company has been more active in New York and outside of New Jersey in recent years, the development group still holds a sizeable office portfolio here. This year, the team at Normandy raised a $250 million opportunity zone fund. In early October, Columbia Property Trust, a real estate investment trust listed on the New York Stock Exchange as CXP, agreed to buy Normandy in a $100 million cash and stock deal. Wentworth and Welsh will be forming a new investment firm, which will not be competitive to Columbia. The new firm will retain ownership of a select asset portfolio not being acquired by Columbia, spanning commercial properties and mixed-use development sites.
After years of working alongside his father, Donald, Eric Witmondt took over the leadership of Woodmont Properties in 1999, elevating the company’s status as a significant regional developer. He is responsible for the rapid expansion of Woodmont’s redevelopment, infill, multifamily and industrial development. Under his leadership, the company has grown into one of New Jersey’s most active developers with commercial developments and acquisitions/dispositions in excess of 5 million square feet completed in the past five years, and 2,600-rental housing to be completed by the end of 2017. As CEO, Witmondt directs the company’s short- and long-range planning and strategic direction. Since joining Woodmont as CEO in 1993, Witmondt turned a boutique residential, office and industrial developer into a regional powerhouse, with the company’s value increasing from $200 million to $650 million-plus during his tenure. The company, which owned no apartment units prior to naming Witmondt as CEO, now owns more than 3,000 units at 13 luxury apartment communities throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Witmondt began his career with Cushman and Wakefield, where he was a top-producing broker, after he established Associated Realty Inc., a leading New Jersey commercial real estate brokerage firm. In 2000, Associated merged with GVA Williams, an international real estate services company headquartered in New York, and assumed the name, GVA Williams of NJ with Witmondt as its CEO.
Ask scholars, ask politicians, ask anyone who knows about commercial real estate in New Jersey: Ted Zangari is a lawyer to talk to. The Sills Cummis & Gross member and chair of its real estate department is also a founding member of the Rutgers University Center for Real Estate, where he serves on the executive committee, and a member of the board of trustees at George Washington University’s Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis. Zangari founded the Smart Growth Economic Development Coalition, a group of statewide business, industry and urban renewal organizations, with the purpose of finding solutions for the state’s outmigration problem and to address New Jersey’s need for smart growth and development. When Gov. Phil Murphy took office, the coalition handed him a framework of proposals geared to improve incentive programs, standardize local land use procedures, and create new sites for industrial projects. At Sills Cummis, Zangari leads a team on large-scale mixed use projects including land assemblage, redeveloper designations and agreements, tax increment financing and other public incentives; and is generally seen as the go-to guy to talk to about investing in Opportunity Zones.
Zucker is no stranger to lists of New Jersey’s real estate heavy hitters. As president of Somerset Development, the owner and developer of Bell Works, he’s played a major part in the ongoing transformation efforts of the decrepit former headquarters into a gleaming city-style office complex. The 1.9 million-square-foot office space, perched atop a 473-acre complex in Holmdel, played host to the renowned Bell Labs until the company vacated the suburban office park in 2007. State and local officials, developers and business executives have been grappling with how to revive the hundreds of malls, shopping centers and office parks scattered throughout the state, standing nearly or completely empty. Malls have been hollowed out as patrons opt for shopping online. Meanwhile, suburban office parks have stood empty as businesses move into cities and other urban centers, or shifted their operations overseas. The Bell Labs complex nearly ended up the same way. Observers are watching closely to see whether approaches like Zucker’s can write a new chapter in the suburban story.
Zaro is the chairman of the banking and real estate services at law firm Sills Cummis & Gross and the chairman of the Gateway Program Development Corp. In that capacity, he will have a lot to say about how New Jerseyans get around – or don’t get around. New analysis issued in July 2019 during a meeting of the Gateway board meeting found significant delays along the Northeast Corridor rail line caused by failures at the North River Tunnel and Portal Bridge, both of which are 109 years old. According to the Gateway board, the analysis is based on five years of data provided by New Jersey Transit and Amtrak. In total, the incidents caused 112,800 minutes of train delays over 85 days, or almost 2,000 lost hours in extra transit time. “Regular delays are unacceptable for any amount of time, but these 85 major delay days are particularly bad, adding up to more than one day a month of major delays,” Zaro said. “Commuters are rightly frustrated at being forced to arrive very late to work and parents dismayed over lost time otherwise spent with family and children. It’s past time to build Gateway and give passengers the reliability they pay for and deserve.” Gateway is leading the planning of the $14.3 billion-plus infrastructure project to replace the rail tunnels and the Portal Bridge, which spans the Hackensack River between Secaucus and Kearny and opens to allow ships to pass on the river. For now, the project is stalled due to intransigence in Washington. Zaro and his colleagues have to find a way to shake federal dollars loose.
More from the 2019 NJBIZ Commercial Real Estate Power 50:
- No. 1: Jon Hanson and Jimmy Hanson
- No. 2: Don Ghermezian
- No. 3: George Norcross
- No. 4: Chris Paladino
- No. 5: Tim Sullivan
- No. 6: Leslie Anderson
- No. 7: Ed Russo
- No. 8: Jack Morris
- No. 9: Jeff Sica
- No. 10: Barry Ostrowsky
- Commercial Real Estate Power 50 A-M
- The 2019 NJBIZ Commercial Real Estate Power 50 slideshow