How do you stand out from the competition in commercial real estate?

It’s one of the ultimate questions in virtually any industry, but a panel of developers weighed in recently before a group of brokers and others who do business in the Garden State. While their answers varied to some degree, the executives shared at least one common strategy: Go after the deals that your competitors would typically avoid.

“More often than not, we’re not bidding against other people,” said Jim Petrucci, founder of J.G. Petrucci & Co. “A lot of the things we do, nobody else wants to do.”

For instance, the Asbury-based firm has a portfolio and pipeline of 13 apartment projects. All of the properties occupy former brownfield sites, he said, and “all of them have had varying levels of complexity.”

“Each project has its own story and we look at a lot of things,” Petrucci said, “but then, when we like something, we get focused and we try to move as quickly as we can.”

Petrucci spoke last week during an event hosted by the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors. The midyear market review program, which took place at the Essex County Country Club in West Orange, featured both a panel discussion and the presentation of the chapter’s 2016 awards for large deals.

Finding sites in the surging industrial and multifamily sectors can often mean being creative or taking additional risk, Petrucci said. Michael Allen Seeve, president of Mountain Development Corp., said that’s not necessarily the case when bidding for suburban office buildings, a market that is oversupplied and features far less competition these days.

Instead, he said, office investors need to be creative when it comes to actually filling those buildings.

“Our business is winning tenants,” Seeve said. “You can buy a lot of office buildings at a good price, but they can bleed you dry if you can’t get them done. We win leases and we compete against the same guys that own office buildings all over the place. We win them because we listen to the brokers when they bring them to us.

“I think we try to put together teams to not just be a landlord, but to be a real partner,” he added. That can mean anything from bringing in the right architect “so that the spaces will be exciting” to delivering the space on time and on budget.

Mitchell Berkey, a member of Chiesa, Shahinian & Giantomasi PC and the moderator of the discussion, agreed that “credibility and the ability to close are two powerful items.” Among several other questions, he asked the developers what they need from local and state government in order to be successful.

Jeff Milanaik, a principal with Bridge Development Partners LLC and CEO of CrownPoint Group, said a lack of certainty and slow decision-making by local officials were the biggest threats to development and economic growth.

“What we really want to know at the end of the day is … an answer that’s pretty timely so we can continue to go forward,” Milanaik said. “I don’t want to spend a year and a half and find out I can’t get the project done. At the end of the day it’s about the certainty of decision.”

Following the panel discussion, Scott Peck of Resource Realty and David Simon of Colliers International Group, SIOR’s New Jersey chapter president, presented the awards for the largest deals of 2016 among the chapter’s members. The awards are as follows:

  • Industrial lease: Tom Monahan of CBRE, for a 695,072-square-foot lease at 25-53 Talmadge Road, Edison between Prologis and FedEx Ground
  • Industrial sale: Tom Monahan of CBRE, for the sale of the Mahwah Corporate Campus in Mahwah; Prologis sold the 355,957-square-foot property to Cabot Properties
  • Office lease: Michael Maroon of The Acclaim Group, for a 107,075-square-foot lease at 16404 Black Canyon Hwy in Phoenix between SCRE II Black Canyon LP and Paychex North American Inc.
  • Office sale: Scott Perkins of NAI James E. Hanson, for the sale of 216 Route 17 North in Rochelle Park; Ellington Capital sold the 83,222-square-foot property to 216 Rt 17 North, LLC
  • SIOR cooperative (New Jersey): Mitch Katz of Newmark Knight Frank and David Knee and Robert Kossar of JLL, for a 905,000-square-foot lease at 100 Manor Way in Robbinsville between Principal Real Estate Investors and Keurig Green Mountain
  • SIOR cooperative (outside New Jersey): David Knee and Robert Kossar of JLL and Kevin Higgins of CBRE, for a 525,200-square-foot lease at North Sloan Lane and East Ann Road in North Las Vegas, Nevada, between Prologis and Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Land: David Knee and Robert Kossar of JLL, for the sale of 429 Delancy Street in Newark; 429 Delancy Associates LLC sold the 33-acre site to Bridge Delancy LLC