Michael Sommer said he isn’t surprised the multifamily real estate market has remained hot in New Jersey during the pandemic. He also knows it has dramatically evolved while doing so.
“People are definitely focused on outdoor amenities,” he said. “People are definitely focused on the potential to work from home and, therefore, home office, dens and bonus spaces are highly desired.
“So, while I would say that multifamily has been incredibly durable during this time — and, while we expect that to continue to be the case — the product type, the amenities in those buildings that will need to be there to be successful in a post-COVID world, will naturally evolve.”
Sommer, who started in his new role as executive vice president of development and construction at Kushner Cos. on Monday, said he’s eager to jump in. The company has a number of projects in the state that are in progress.
A veteran of a number of New Jersey real estate companies, most notably Edison Properties, Sommer spoke with ROI-NJ about his new role Monday night. Here’s a look at the conversation, edited for clarity and space.
ROI-NJ: Give us more details about what you’ll be doing?
Michael Sommer: The title kind of speaks for itself, it’s executive vice president of development and construction, so I’ll be overseeing all of those activities throughout the portfolio. As it stands today, we have a good number of projects, from North Jersey to Central Jersey to South Jersey, including the Jersey Shore, which are all in different phases of predevelopment. The one that is best known is One Journal Square (in Jersey City), but there are several other significant projects that are predominantly multifamily.
And then, down in Florida, South Florida specifically, we have a keen interest in not only developing the projects that we already have teed up, but also in terms of looking for additional opportunities. As of right now, we have projects in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach County, and we are actively pursuing new deals — outside of development and construction, not necessarily under my purview, but just as an organization — throughout the entire country.
ROI: Kushner has offices in New York City and Florham Park; where will you be working?
MS: I’ll be out of both. I don’t know that one is necessarily a home base versus the other. But I live in Basking Ridge, so I’m relatively close to Florham Park, so I imagine being there quite a bit. The majority of our work is in New Jersey, so, when the world starts getting back to normal, I’ll definitely be spending a lot of my time in New Jersey, for sure.
When you’re building significant projects and you have a team down in Florida, naturally, you want to go in and check in and support the team. But, I think the majority of my time will definitely be spent in New Jersey, in the New York metro area.
ROI: Of course, you’ll benefit from a newfound ability to work from home, too. Talk a little more on how the post-pandemic world will be different for everyone?
MS: I think that, even in a post-pandemic world, using the technology we all have available to us now will change things for everyone. People are going to look to — or need to — work from home more often than they would have pre-pandemic. The pandemic has created a number of changes, a good number of which will stay with us. I think the ability to work from home is one of them — and one we’ll all need to adjust to.