By Dan Orlando
Geoffrey L. Schubert has invested 50 years into navigating and conquering the Northern New Jersey commercial real estate market.
Next month, the senior vice president for CBRE will receive the New Jersey Chapter of NAIOP’s 2015 Industry Service Award. The honor is bestowed upon real estate professionals who have made substantial contributions to the commercial real estate industry in support of its goals.
Schubert’s journey began when his father decided to sell a sizeable mail order operation and enter the real estate business. It was a move that the now industry veteran described as “fortunate,” as Schubert found himself surrounded by knowledgeable real estate professionals from “an early stage.”
Now ranked among CBRE’s top five percent of professionals nationally, Schubert entered the working world in 1965 and immediately followed in his father’s footsteps by joining McBride Enterprises.
He’d later serve as senior vice president and managing director of Koll Management Services’ New Jersey operation when Bridgewood Properties Inc — a company where he was president and CEO — was purchased by Koll.
But despite already producing half of a century’s worth of award-winning real estate transactions, Schubert has no intention of slowing down now.
“I think the only thing I’m thinking seriously about is getting back into (ownership),” Schubert told Real Estate Weekly. “I’ve been making lot of money for a lot of clients and I can be doing that for myself.
“I play enough golf,” he joked, “I catch a few fish, but I’m busy six days a week.”
Though he is planning on staying the course and perhaps even adding to his own portfolio, Schubert expects the road ahead to be a bit bumpier than the past few years were for the Garden State’s commercial market.
“I’ve seen five or six cycles,” said Schubert, “and I think in the next 12 months we’ll start to see another lower key cycle.
“It will last 18-24 months,” Schubert continued, saying that many larger tenants are compressing and looking to fit more workers into less space.
Last year, Schubert handled six to seven million square feet of leasing but doesn’t expect such gaudy numbers in the coming year.
“I think what’s happened is a lot of consolidations,” he said. “A lot of acquisitions and a lot of companies are downsizing so the net result is probably smaller.
“I’m a very optimistic person, but I’ve seen some drastic changes here,” said Schubert who says that companies will take time to sit still and wait out (expected) higher interest rates until around 2018.
Schubert said that companies who aren’t opting to downsize their spaces may be leaning towards leaving the state of New Jersey all together.
“It’s almost too expensive to do business in New Jersey because of the corporate tax,” said Schubert. He told Real Estate Weekly that companies are tempted to go to Pennsylvania or head south in order to save on overhead.
But despite the negatives of operating out of one of the country’s most expensive markets, Schubert is still bullish overall on what New Jersey offers to commercial tenants looking to hang their hat near the hotbed of Manhattan, despite the challenges that the area is currently facing.
“There is still a lot of activity in the market right now,” he said. “We’re tracking probably two million square feet of tenant service requirements.
“The Morris county market is coming back relatively strong,” added Schubert, singling out the Metropark and waterfront markets such as Jersey City as other areas that are yet to feel the full brunt of downsizing.
“The only markets that are really holding their rental rates are the waterfront,” Schubert said. “It’s a cheaper alternative and it’s obviously a lot cheaper to live there,” said Schubert while comparing the area to the other side of the Hudson.
“You’re going to see more and more companies go to Jersey City,” he added. Schubert pointed out that the demand in Jersey City is amplified by the relative lack of office space available.
The success of the waterfront has also kept Schubert’s eye on other parts of the far eastern piece of North Jersey.
Pointing to the Meadowlands as a growing hotspot, he feels the area will continue to receive attention because of the abundance of housing and retail, as well as the relatively quick commute to Manhattan that is available via the Secaucus Junction Station.
According to the industry vet, Parsippany and other areas in Morris County are thriving, but although interest is high, consolidation is not translating to the same volume of business that it once would.
“Basically, everyone is trying to pack in twice the amount of people,” said Schubert. One tenant that has kept Schubert busy throughout the Garden State — despite their own significant downsizing — is the U.S. Postal Service. The USPS has tasked Schubert with 150 renewals over the past three years.
“They’ve gone through their list of locations,” said Schubert who pointed out that the mail service currently has 26,000 physical outposts throughout the United States. “
When Schubert is finally ready to call it a career, he’ll be leaving the industry in good hands.
This past year, his son Scott became the third generation of the family to join the industry when he started work as a broker for Cushman & Wakefield. “He loves it. He’s a hard worker,” said Schubert.
What advice would he give the rookie that carries on the family legacy? “For me, it’s all about relationships,” said Schubert.
Jeff Hipschman, senior managing director, CBRE New Jersey, would likely recommend that Scott study his father’s career very closely.
“Geoff embodies what it means to be an industry leader,” said Hipschman. “He continually uses his strategic skill set and diligent work ethic to guide his team to success. It goes without saying that this (Industry Service Award) is exceptionally well deserved.”
Schubert will be honored at NAIOP New Jersey’s 28th Annual Commercial Real Estate Awards Gala, which will be held on May 14 at The Palace at Somerset Park in Somerset, N.J.