2B — March 27 - April 9, 2020 — Owners, Developers & Managers — M id A tlantic Real Estate Journal


O wners , D evelopers & M anagers Creative Solutions for Advancing Project Goals NAIOPNJ’s holds “Controlling the Narrative” event E

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AST RUTHERFORD, NJ — Commun i t y engagement is often critical to the success of com- mercial real estate projects. During NAIOP New Jersey’s "Controlling the Narrative" program, developers, planners and public relations profes- sionals shared real-world experiences and creative ideas for building local alliances and optimizing social media to ad- vance project goals. Part of the commercial real estate devel- opment association’s Building a Better NJ series, the event was held at the Hilton Mead- owlands in East Rutherford. Diana E. Fainberg , presi- dent of Diana E. Fainberg Associates LLC , introduced the developers’ panel by say- ing, “Information travels quickly, and misinformation travels more quickly than ac- curate information. It is timely that we’re talking about how to manage the communication and community engagement process.” Engaging Community Leaders Early On is Essential Glenn Stock , founder and president of Stock Devel- opment Group , and Peter Cocoziello, Jr., director of business development for Ad- vance Realty , engaged in a wide-ranging conversation that cited specific case studies and lessons learned. Stock, who specializes in repurpos- ing large-scale industrial and commercial properties, spoke about navigating the pitfalls and political issues involved in the successful redevelopment of the former Gerdau Ameristeel property in Perth Amboy. Stock stressed the impor- tance of engaging community leaders early to identify their sensitivities and focus on those issues in order to come up with solutions. “With urban infill projects, we rely less on social media and take a more traditional approach, including face-to-face meetings, site visits and working with mayors, town councils and other regulatory bodies who know the history of the properties.” He believes investing in com- munity education about the project allows the narrative to “start at first or second base, and then it is a matter of what type of amenities you’ll negoti- ate. For example, the city hired someone familiar with PILOTS to overcome what has been a negative history with these programs. They helped resi-

Shown from left: Peter Cocoziello Jr., Advance Realty Development; Glenn Stock, Stock Development Group; Panel Moderator Diana Fainberg, Diana E. Fainberg Associates, LLC

Owners, Developers &Managers Publitics founder Matt Kray- ton agreed. “If you have project parameters in mind, it is never too early to get community feedback. This can be done through polling or research, going door to door, conducting small focus groups or engaging with elected officials.  residents want. This shifts the way people see you from being an outsider who is in it for the money to someone who can help make the community better.” Creating a Community Engagement Toolkit Christa Segalini, executive vice president of marketing and public relations firm An - tenna, led a second panel dis- cussion focused on strategies and tactics developers can use to mobilize project support and counterbalance misinfor- mation. “It is important to be proactive and start planning, doing research and crafting your message as soon as you start thinking about a project,” she said.

dents understand the value a PILOT would bring to the com- munity financially and that it was a good thing for the city at large to remove the blight and bring in green infrastructure. Ultimately, we garnered broad support for the project.” Combating Negative Publicity Cocoziello, who has been involved in multi-use redevel- opment projects with capital- ization totaling over $2 billion, said, “We are seeing a shock- ing shift away from control by elected officials. The developers that succeed are those that have a root process where they understand each community group and identify what key drivers, in their opinion, will make the project successful.” While he believes almost any redevelopment project will generate negative emails and social media posts, Cocoziello has found that one of the most effective ways to combat this is to get ahead of it. “At the com- munity level, we have to stop empowering people with no information or the wrong infor- mation to set the narrative. As soon as you submit a proposal, create a project website, put all relevant facts out there and sell people on why and how you will make their community better. Transparency is essential.” Another tactic for engaging residents it to find groups that address issues in the commu- nity and make them evange- lists for the project.“There is usually an underlying group of people in the community that support the project and are just afraid to speak out,” said Cocoziello. “Never underesti- mate the power of neighbors to rally each other.” by Getting Ahead of the Narrative He advised developers to “al- ways remember it’s about the community. Give every project its own identity and focus on how it will deliver the result



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