ROI Influencers: Real Estate 2020 (A year like no other — Part 2)

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted all business sectors in the country.
Real estate was no different. To get a snapshot of the impact, we asked
a dozen thought leaders across a variety of parts of the real estate economy
to offer an insight into COVID’s impact — in 100 words or less.

Here’s a look at their responses.

(Read Part 1 here.)

Public projects/public policy

Steve Fulop
Jersey City
We’re obviously linked to the New York City market. So, we’re seeing higher vacancy rates than we’ve seen at any point in the last 20 years. The feedback from the development community is that it’s a much tougher environment than even in 2008. And that there’s a lot of supply in the region and there isn’t an equal amount of demand. Things won’t change until A) there’s a vaccine; and B) employers start having employees back in the office environment. So, it’s definitely hurting development. And we’re hopeful that things change before it becomes irreversible damage.”

Kris Kolluri
Cooper’s Ferry Partnership
Camden’s broader commercial real estate market, including publicly funded projects, is enveloped in uncertainty because of the pandemic. Like other cities, Camden has seen a softening in the overall real estate market, with two exceptions. First, the interest and demand for warehousing projects has been robust. Second, interest in advancing affordable and market-rate housing developments continues unabated. Residents, policymakers and developers understand that there is an inherent demand for new inventory in all neighborhoods. Unlike other cities in the state, perhaps, Camden still has land to build small scale infill housing and large-scale dense homes and apartments.”

Chris Paladino
Anchor institutions are economic engines. So, instead of easing up during the pandemic, Rutgers University, Stockton University and RWJBarnabas Health — with support from elected officials — have created $1 billion in new investment in New Brunswick and Atlantic City in public-private partnerships. In New Brunswick, the Rutgers Cancer Institute and the HUB are moving quickly toward more than 700,000 square feet of research, innovation, clinical and inpatient space, creating over 1,600 construction jobs. In Atlantic City, Phase 2 of the Stockton campus will bring 450 additional full-time students to the city. Investments such as these will be critical to the restart of the economy.”


Jarrod Grasso
Executive vice president
N.J. Association of Realtors
Never has housing been a more essential and immediate need than during a pandemic. The ability for real estate professionals to continue working with their clients during the lockdown allowed for a quicker and more robust recovery period for all New Jerseyans. Now, the current real estate market is exceeding expectations and allowing our members to guide more and more people to the American Dream of homeownership. And, now, more than ever, more of those homeowners are coming from New York and urban centers as the ideal home scenario suddenly has changed.”

Adam Pasternack
Russo Property Management
COVID posed some challenges, but we worked with our leasing teams to innovate and shift to virtual leasing and self-guided tours. Even now, while conducting in-person tours, we act with the utmost focus and priority on safety for our team members, prospects and residents. Our amenity offerings and design combined with urban and suburban living turned out to be very appealing to New Yorkers who were looking for an alternative during COVID that gave them access to nearby outdoor green spaces, and better value with well-appointed apartment homes that enable an easy transition between living and working remotely.”

Deb Tantleff
Founding principal
Tantum Real Estate
COVID-19 has accelerated the pace of existing trends, highlighting the realities of New Jersey’s limited housing inventory and overall affordability. Quality housing must deliver safe shelter and personal space, offer lifestyle flexibility through diverse product types and well-designed floor plans, and provide varied function through complementary outdoor open spaces and community amenities. This pandemic has put a spotlight on the ecosystem that exists between landlord, tenant and host municipality. From increased maintenance needs and compromised rent payments, to real estate tax obligations and general housing demand, this experience has proven essential for all parties to cooperate in creating effective solutions.”


Wendy Neu
Chair, CEO
Hugo Neu
Maintaining workplace safety, protection and business continuity is now a must. Public and environmental health have become top priorities, as human coronavirus is here to stay, regardless of a vaccine. The pandemic led us to establish a permanent team of environmental, safety and wellness experts to execute a healthy workplace program supporting our employees and over 200 businesses. Our comprehensive “Safe, Healthy & Protected Program” incorporates multilayered, state-of-the-art technologies, achieving medical-grade protection and lowering risk of transmission to under 1%. Robust cleaning, electrostatic disinfection, health and safety screening, physical distancing, training and mandatory PPE are now the norm.”

Wendy Andrew-Doele
Studio director
COVID-19 has presented an opportunity for us to reassess the purpose of workplace so it better services the workforce, culture, values and business. We know from our U.S. Workplace Survey 2020 Summer/Fall that more than half of U.S. workers prefer a hybrid work model, wanting to work both at home and in the office based on needs. To address this change, we are working with our clients to determine their workplace’s new purpose, instill well-being and establish required technology to support this hybrid model, because the future of work is now.” 

John Saraceno
Managing principal
Onyx Equities
Our offices are well-positioned to capitalize on tenants already in the suburbs looking for high-quality space, as well as potential tenant relocations from New York City due to COVID-19. Onyx Equities purchased more than 1.5 million square feet of office space in Morris County during the pandemic, and we have implemented the same capital improvements strategy that has been attracting tenants looking for high-quality buildings that are easily accessible to major highways and in close proximity to urban downtowns that we’ve used in Bergen County and Newark.”

(Read Part 1 here.)

(Return to the main list here.)