For the last 95 years, New Jersey-based Elberon Development has been a trusted partner for redevelopment and new construction in the industrial real estate market. Now under the leadership of third-generation president Dave Gibbons, Elberon continues a family tradition of building lasting relationships and close connections to tenants, owners, general contractors, subcontractors and financial partners alike.
Elberon started in 1920 with David O. Evans. The company first made its mark in the residential market, but over the years the focus has shifted. Today, Elberon specializes in redevelopment in the Port of New York and New Jersey. “We concentrate on warehouse space in and around the port and airport area,” explains Dave. “We have about 2 million square feet right in the vicinity of the port. In the past several years we’ve been active in the food sector because there’s so much demand for warehouse space.”
As a developer, Elberon works in many areas, but the company’s niche is really in redevelopment. “We’re taking buildings that are 40 or 50 years old and completely rehabbing them or we’re taking them down and building new,” says Anne Estabrook, chairwoman of Elberon. “We think of ourselves as long-term players,” she adds. “The work were doing now will last generations. I like to say, ‘what we’re doing now is for my grandchildren.’”
Passing the torch
It is this philosophy, coupled with a legacy of strong industry relationships that have moved the business forward for nearly a century. “We’re a third-generation family company and we’re very proud of the fact that the third generation of leadership has stepped in and we’re also extremely proud of the partnerships we’ve forged over the years,” adds Anne.
Anne has been a leader in the industry for decades, serving as the first woman president of the New Jersey chapter of NAIOP (NAIOP NJ), a local branch of the Commercial Real Estate Development Association. “I’ve been active in NAIOP NJ for a long time and I’m the only woman to date to serve as president,” she says. “I went on to be the national chairwoman, back when we had 10,000 members — today there are more than 16,000 members.”
Anne’s experience in several industries, including banking and infrastructure, has allowed for greater insight into the industrial real estate market. “My background in banking has paid off,” she says. “If you can learn to think like a lender then you can better answer lenders’ questions.”
Having been active for so many years, Anne is finally ready to take a step back. “I’ve passed the CEO title on to my son, Dave, in January 2015,” she says. “He’s been in this industry for 19 years now and he’s the new face of leadership at Elberon.”
“I came out of Cornell Law School and starting working as counsel at Elberon, writing legal documents for projects and I did some leasing and acquisition work,” says Dave. “I worked closely with my mother and I worked at another development company for some time and I began to develop construction expertise and overall, a well-rounded experience of all sides of the business.”
Relying on long-running relationships
With a small, 10-person team, Elberon relies on strong relationships and industry ties to move complex redevelopment projects forward. One of the most recent major projects the company has tackled is the relocation and rebuilding of a grocery warehouse facility for Wakefern Food Corp., a cooperative owned by ShopRite Supermarkets and located in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
To build the new 525,000-square-foot industrial food facility Elberon first had to help Wakefern relocate to a new location. “Wakefern’s facility was no longer useful to the company in today’s economy,” says Anne.
“As the owner-developer on this project, we actively participated in the effort to help Wakefern move to another building owned by a third party,” adds Dave. “The temporary site wasn’t too far away so employees were willing to commute and Wakefern could conduct business as normally as possible.”
Over the course of the redevelopment, other issues began to arise. “Relocating the tenant was the first challenge, and then from an approval standpoint, we ran into zoning and environmental issues,” recounts Dave. “There were a lot of moving pieces and from beginning to end, this was approximately a three-year project.”
There was a conflict between the DEP and Army Corps of Engineers and Elberon was able to draw on its longstanding relationships to smoothly and quickly solve the problem. “The environmental issues were worked through and the city, county and state came together to help us and the project received some $40 million in special reallocated bonds,” adds Anne. “This was a complicated project from a financial perspective because it included these government incentives on both the ownership and tenant side.”
With the experience to successfully navigate the tenant relocation, financing, zoning and environmental issues, Elberon completed the Wakefern redevelopment in 2012. Shortly thereafter, the project won the Creative Industrial Deal of the Year award from NAIOP.
Another sizable redevelopment for Elberon was completed in 2013 — a 175,000-square-foot, built-to-suit cold storage warehouse for the French corporation, Seafrigo. “This is Seafrigo’s U.S. headquarters,” says Dave. “The international component added another layer of complexity to this project as we were communicating overseas with the client.”
Elberon is pleased to work with Seafrigo again with another large-scale cold storage facility in the works. “Repeat business feels good,” says Dave. “That’s what we’re about and what we strive for.”
As newly appointed CEO, Dave says his vision for the future is to continue Elberon’s legacy of taking good care of current tenants and finding new customers to add to the company’s lengthy portfolio of repeat business. After 96 years and running, Elberon Development stands strong on family ownership, customer and industry connections and redevelopment for a brighter future in New Jersey.