When it comes to the value of networking, Lance Blake can speak from personal experience.He has about three decades’ worth, specifically at NAIOP New Jersey’s annual Commercial Real Estate Awards Gala, where he has “fond memories of shadowing my father Ed and his partner Don Rotwein, as they worked the room and introduced me to industry icons of their day.”
“As I observed, I learned early on how important it is to foster meaningful relationships and how enriching and enduring they could be,” said Blake, president of Rotwein Blake. “Many of their professional relationships became friendships that lasted well beyond their working years.”
It was a sentiment shared by many who attended the commercial real estate association’s 29th annual gala, which drew some 800 industry leaders and professionals to Somerset on Thursday night. Blake’s Livingston-based architecture firm was presented with the Industry Service Award and was among several honorees at one of the sector’s must-attend events of the year.
Drawing a packed house to The Palace at Somerset Park, the gala was headlined by the presentation of three deals of the year and several individual awards. Woodmont Properties Chairman Donald Witmondt received NAIOP New Jersey’s Lifetime Achievement Award, noting that “my journey has been all about relationships that I’ve forged along the way.”
“As all of you know, the real estate industry is about far more than land and buildings,” Witmondt said. “It’s about interesting, optimistic and risk-taking people, and our industry has many of those. Building a team at Woodmont with people who not only love our business, but share my value of hard work and honesty, has made the years go by quicker than I would like.
“There is great satisfaction in knowing our company is important to so many of our coworkers, their families as well as the contractors, subcontractors and vendors who have been part of our team over the years.”
The event also included the Impact Awards, which were presented to Robert J. Rudin of Cushman & Wakefield and Brandywine Realty Trust. Also unveiled were NAIOP New Jersey’s three Deal of the Year awards:
- Industrial: Elizabeth Logistics Center in Elizabeth. Involved in the deal were Elberon Development Group, the Avidan Group, RC Andersen, RKB Architect, Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, HFF, JLL, Greenbaum Rowe Smith & Davis LLP, McManimon Scotland & Baumann, Seafrigo, Pilot Freight Services, First Bank, The Provident Bank, NAI James E. Hanson and Hehl & Hehl.
- Office: Subaru America’s headquarters relocation to Camden. Involved in the deal were Fox Rothschild LLP, Subaru of America Inc., Brandywine Realty Trust and CBRE Group Inc.
- Mixed-use: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Montvale. Involved in the deal were Newmark Grubb Knight Frank and Chamber Street Properties.
Also, a surprise Judge’s Award was given to Advance Realty and those involved with the redevelopment of the 1.2 million-square-foot former Sanofi U.S. research campus in Bridgewater, specifically for the deal that will bring Nestle Health Science to the Bridgewater site. Involved in the deal were Advance Realty, Cross Harbor Capital Partners, JLL and Newmark Grubb Knight Frank.
All told, the gala was a display of an industry that is tight-knit, despite having such rich competition. Michael McGuinness, CEO of NAIOP New Jersey, called it “the most cost-effective” way of getting deals done in the state.
The trick, he said, is continuing to present a worthwhile roster of award recipients. And having such a rich industry in New Jersey allows NAIOP to do that.
“As time goes on, it’s always a challenge to come up with people that we feel are deserving and meet the criteria, but each year our awards committee does that,” McGuinness said. “And we surprise ourselves, because sometimes we weren’t thinking of those people.”