Is Amazon the Best for More Success in NJ After All, or is the Mars Deal More Important?

NEWARK, NJ — In many headlines, the story generally goes that Newark’s HQ2 bid (more specifically, the positive reaction from Amazon) turned around the narrative for the famous, but often struggling, city. But for many local Newark developers and insiders, it solidified what many already knew – that Newark has been ripe for a major breakthrough for quite awhile. So the Newark HQ2 was quite the topic of discussion during the Special Luncheon Discussion: The Future of Newark from a Policy and Practical Point of View, Developer-Administration Point/Counterpoint at CapRE’s Newark Commercial Real Estate Summit in July. Below is a snippet of that conversation.

Moderator Ron Simoncini, President, Axiom Communications: The surge of interest in Newark is almost overwhelming when you consider where it was ten years ago. For a little bit of background, our firm had a very long relationship with Newark. We had significant space for office buildings in Newark. And we were always thrilled when the state put them up for renewal for our leases, because there just wasn’t any other market. It was great. We had a 50,000 square foot lease to a school board or a state office.

That’s very different now. How much of what is going on now comes from Newark and the county and yourselves making a plan and trying to follow a path? How much of it is coming from a reaction to this surge in the difference of how people are considering their next location?

Joe Kelley ,Deputy Chief of Staff for Economic Growth. in Trenton, N.J. on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. (Office of the Attorney General / Tim Larsen)

Joe Kelley, Deputy Chief of Staff for Economic Growth, State of NJ Governor Phil Murphy: I think there is a lot of clear symbiosis between the Morristowns and the Newarks of the world, who are on the same kind of train lines, have a shared infrastructure, trying to make sure that the two are connected and work together and thrive. John, I’d turn it over to you, since you have more experience than I do, but you’re starting to see with big investors, them wanting to see their capital not be just siloed and clustered in different parts of the state. And they want to see it be cohesive.

Simoncini: Well the same goes to you, John, I mean when you look at this, do you think that the market is responding to the impetus that Newark had to re-create itself, or do you feel like Newark is having to catch up and re-create itself in response to market demand?

John Saraceno Jr., Co­-Founder and Managing Principal, Onyx Equities, LLC: Look I think that in most instances in the business world, it’s a herd mentality. So I think that each piece of the puzzle for the last fifteen years was another piece that started to shape the image of what that puzzle was going to look like.

And Amazon actually, if it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, I’d say that it had a big help. Because, I’ve said this on multiple occasions, but the Mars deal, to me, if not the biggest move in Newark in my lifetime of doing this, I don’t think there’s a more profound change in Newark generally that Mars selected Ironside’s project. As awesome of a building as it Is, and it’s really cool and they’re doing a great job, ten years ago, there was not a chance that Mars would go to that building, even if it was built.

Continue the New Jersey Conversation. Check out our Upcoming Events. For earlier coverage of this panel, check out previous CapRE Insider Reports: