Paladino made the comments during a roundtable webinar hosted by Choose New Jersey, a Newark-based nonprofit whose stated mission is to stimulate job creation and attract capital investment to New Jersey. The program, “COVID-19’s Impact on the New Jersey Real Estate Market,” address a wide-range of topics on Tuesday, from trends in commercial renting to affects of COVID-19 on the college student housing market in New Brunswick.
Paladino indicated that the pandemic which slammed New Jersey in March and April will force developers to think outside the box – and outside the building.
Whether it’s at The Hub or otherwise, he said outside spaces could one day be the setting for board meetings and corporate training sessions.
“That’s the one place where people do feel safe and people are starting to get used to it,” he said. “So how can we create meeting spaces that are maybe something you can use nine months, 10 months a year with radiant floors, heat, fans, those kind of things. So, we are going through some design changes and kind of creating a number of additional outdoor spaces that are more than a place to have lunch.”
In the meantime, Paladino said that the Heldrich Hotel – which is managed by DEVCO – has become a popular spot for business clientele with cabin fever.
“We have had individuals and companies say, ‘I have to get out of my house. Can I rent a hotel room for several days a week or a conference room in the hotel?’ You are starting to see people become a little itchy and looking to do innovative things,” he said.
When asked about the New Brunswick housing market, Paladino said fraternity houses and off-campus apartments are filling up even though Rutgers will utilize remote instruction for the vast majority of its fall classes.
He said that the students will continue to prop up the local economies, including dining.
In fact, Paladino praised the outdoor dining program instituted by Mayor Jim Cahill. The city is closing off several portions of George Street and allowing restaurants to put their tables smack dab in the socially distant center of the road.
“The one bright light that I have seen come out of this entire mess from a business standpoint is that every restaurateur that I have spoken to in New Brunswick has said this is the best summer that they have ever had,” Paladino said. “People don’t usually come to New Brunswick in the summer to have dinner, but with people not traveling far, this has been a unique result of a relatively trying situation.”