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Real Estate Veteran Opens Eyes To Lucrative Jersey Market

September 28, 2005

Star Ledger

Mitchell Berkey knows the New York real estate community sometimes thinks the sun "rises and falls on Manhattan and maybe one or two of the boroughs," as he puts it.

How does Berkey, a partner at Wolff & Samson in West Orange, know this? For nearly 20 years, Berkey was a New York corporate lawyer handling the sales of some of midtown Manhattan's most storied skyscrapers, and he admits to sharing that view — sometimes.

So with that in mind — as well as some client development — Berkey last week assembled three of the state's most successful real estate executives for a forum with New York's Young Mortgage Bankers Association over lunch at the Cornell Club in Manhattan. His message: "There is a heck of a lot of money being spent on real estate in New Jersey."

After that, Brian Stolar, chief executive of Pinnacle; Joseph Romano, a partner in the newly formed Accordia Realty Ventures; and Carl Goldberg, principal at Roseland Property, regaled the room with the best real estate advice a $60 lunch could buy.

Stolar, who has specialized in high-end residential developments since the 1980s, says he has learned in recent years of the need to incorporate all types of development and business deals into his new projects, including the $850 million transformation of the old Maxwell House factory on the Hoboken waterfront.

"We've reached out to get pieces of title and mortgage business but also doing deals for cable televisions and for credit cards for residents with PNC Bank," Stolar says. "These days, the more you can work with everyone together, the better off you'll be."

Romano says the lull in the office market can be deceiving and predicted speculative office building will soon pick up, driven by the desire for companies to get precisely the space they need.

"What used to be a Class A office building is now a Class C, and companies will pay to get a building that actually works for them," Romano says. "What you're going to see is redevelopment of the existing office stock."

Only Goldberg had a few words of warning about the consequences of a real estate bubble that has driven up land costs so high, developers can turn a profit only if they build the most expensive housing possible.

"We have created the most significant, artificially constrained supply of land in history," Goldberg says. "It's led to a hyperinflation in price, but also a dissipating pool of people who can afford what is being built."

Reprinted with permission from The Star Ledger, September 28, 2005