Q&A with Lori Grifa: New Jersey is Dynamic, Firms Large and Small Hitting All Cylinders
by Josh Anderson
JERSEY CITY, NJ – Lori Grifa is an Attorney and Partner at Archer, in Hackensack. Grifa has practiced law for more than 25 years. In her career, she has expertly untied the administrative and regulatory knots that frustrate and plague the business community. She brings a deep level of experience, knowledge and insight to matters involving the New Jersey Departments of Community Affairs, Banking & Insurance, Environmental Protection, Health, Human Services, Labor, Transportation and Treasury, as well as the state’s professional Licensing Boards and the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Lori has divided her career nearly evenly between the public and private sectors and is an expert in government affairs. Prior to joining Archer’s Hackensack office in 2015, Lori served Governors from both sides of the aisle. Most recently, from 2010 to 2012, Lori served as the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, where she supervised the creation of approximately 3,000 units of affordable housing and managed 2,200 annual grant programs involving nearly $500 million.
CapRE: Thanks so much for chatting with us today. Our readers will love to hear your perspective as they rev up for our Sixth Annual New Jersey Gold Coast tomorrow. Please share with us your thoughts on New Jersey at the moment.
Grifa: The market is very hot in all sectors. That’s great. And from my perspective, there is plenty of work to be had. The deals are some of them are challenging. Some of them are exciting. There are new beginnings in redevelopment and that’s always wonderful to see. But overall it is a very hot market – industrial is hot, even though the office sector, you could say, is flat. But we’re seeing a lot of interesting things happen.
CapRE: Why is so hot right now?
Grifa: Our geography is why. It’s unbeatable. The three commandments of real estate — the three Ls are very present here in New Jersey. And for us, that never goes away. So if the market conditions are decent, then we will have a very active market. Interest rates are starting to creep up a bit, and you may have to watch out for that, but I would assume that there is still plenty of money on the street and the fundamentals have been favorable for some time.
CapRE: And how about leadership on the gold coast?
Grifa: The Gold Coast mayors are pretty forward-thinking. And they appreciate their location and their interests, and they’re all trying very actively to secure deals. All of those drivers exist and are pushing the market.
CapRE: So what are you most looking forward to about the New Jersey Gold Coast tomorrow?
Grifa: I am very interested in re-development so I have my eyes on those panels. I’m hopoing to get in to see the Case Study in Mixed-Use Development: Harrison NoG panel at 12:00 as well as the Multifamily & Mixed-Use Redevelopment Case Studies: What are the Game Changing Strategies for the Gold Coast in 2018? discussion at 2:00.
We have some really creative people here in New Jersey. They’ve had a lot of success. The wonderful thing is that the players aren’t static. So they are continuing to evolve. And sort of bringing new attributes to every deal. That is going to be, I think, very interesting to hear about – their success and their future projects.
CapRE: And what projects have you had your eye on out on the ground in New Jersey?
Grifa: I’ve got my eye on a significant redevelopment project taking place in Florham Park. The Rockefeller Group purchased the Exxon campus 10-12 years ago and that redevelopment is now coming online. There’s a lot of different stuff – two hotels, some apartments. They have a pretty significant number of homes and that includes a significant amount of supportive housing for people with special needs. We’re just starting to make the turn and looking forward to see how that evolves. It should be a model for other places in New Jersey.
CapRE: Which New Jersey markets are you most excited about at the moment?
Grifa: My office is in Hackensack. We are always looking to the Meadowlands to see what they’re doing. There is a regulatory overlay that exists for the Meadowlands towns. That overlay, due to some political re-organization, is evolving. It’ll be interesting to see how that transpires in a post-Chris Christie world, since he was responsible for the reorganization of the regulatory body.
We’re finally starting to see some construction on American Dream, for example. That was the longest stalled project I can think of. It took well over a decade. I actually think that the redevelopment award was made in 2002 or 2003. We’re 15 years later now, and just starting to see something. Given my geographic proximity to the area, I tend to keep an eye on that stuff.
CapRE: So how would you describe New Jersey in one word?
Grifa: It’s dynamic. Because the market is very active. A lot of the development companies — both the large and small ones — seem to be hitting on all cylinders. We obviously hope it continues. I can’t say that there are not some dark clouds out there though.
CapRE: Dark clouds, such as?
Grifa: Of particular concern is what will happen with the Gateway Tunnel, and some of the unfortunately political machinations that are on-going in Washington. I think that the Gold Coast is particularly at risk and I am hoping that common sense will prevail and political foolishness will not carry the day. We’re not going to thrive here in New Jersey if we don’t get some infrastructure improvements. We are seeing some, but in many respects, our larger destiny is being controlled by forces outside of our reach. And that is of concern to me.
CapRE: So what’s the last word?
Grifa: We are a smaller market but we have a lot to show for it. Especially in the last four or five years. There are places in New Jersey that are starting to develop a skyline – Bergen county, New Brunswick are starting to have skylines!
CapRE: That’s exciting!
Grifa: It is. Right now, it’s kind of ours to mess up – and there are larger forces at play than just the real estate community – but in general, it’s all good right now.
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