5 Thresholds in the DMR Architects Era

5 Thresholds in the DMR Architects Era 2560 1450 DMR Architects

DMR’s Founder and Chairman Lloyd Rosenberg, AIA takes a look back at the past 33 years to mark the top five inflection points in New Jersey’s real estate and architectural history:

Multi-Family Revolution. DMR’s practice started out with a narrow focus but now spans many asset classes, and its multi-family work is a prime example of expanding along with market demand: as the state’s luxury housing market expanded – much of it in downtown areas – DMR grew with it.

One example of this is the 19.78-acre The Record site in Hackensack which DMR incorporated into the City of Hackensack’s 2012 municipal redevelopment plan as part of the extension of its downtown district to the Hackensack River and is now the site of a luxury 650-unit community with 18,000 square feet of retail. 12 years later…we can see how impactful that initial planning has been.

Another example is the Annin Flag Factory in Verona which had been part of New Jersey’s landscape since 1919 creating flags for some of the country’s most historically significant moments.  While one of its flags still stands on the moon, DMR’s design to repurpose the building in 2017 into 52 loft-style apartment homes and common areas with a 60-apartment home sister building generate record rents; a feat that would have seemed unthinkable just a few years before.

Design Build, Public-Private Partnerships, and Construction Efficiency. As materials, land, and labor costs have skyrocketed over DMR’s 33 years, the firm has been a distinctive participant in creating greater efficiencies to combat inflation.  When we formed in 1991, alternative funding, procurement and delivery methods such as public-private partnerships and design-build projects were a far-off notion that would have been unthinkable in a public bidding setting.

Even now, with the benefits of these platforms demonstrated on many occasions, we are part of the first team to secure a public-private partnership in the State under current legislation enacted in 2019.  PPP’s allow public entities to enter into an agreement with a private entity which assumes the financial and administrative responsibility for the design, development, and construction.  We anticipate benefits including project risk transfer to the private partner, more innovative designs, reduced costs and timelines, and freed up public funding for other important projects.

Our design-build projects have garnered much attention, including the $150 million Frank J. Gargiulo Campus project in Secaucus, finished in a record 27 months, a year less than what similar projects normally take.  DMR is also committed to the efficient application of its design work and created its own construction administration department to assure that its clients receive maximum value from their contracting vendors.

Affordable Housing Maturation. Through the various cycles of affordable housing regulation in New Jersey, which began with a court decision in 1983, we’ve seen a variety of permutations ranging from stand-alone buildings to inclusionary housing to special needs and senior developments.

One of the challenges of affordable housing is how to stretch the budget so that the aesthetics of the buildings blend into the overall look and vibe of a town.  A frequent aspiration, stated in different ways, is that once affordable housing is going to be developed, it needs to make special populations feel embraced by the communities.

The source of these developments is the communities in which the housing is built:  whether it be a private developer fulfilling an obligation or a not-for-profit delivering on its mission or a housing authority responding to local needs, the design solution can drive the success and esteem of a project.

Healthcare Evolution. The growth in the healthcare industry has been remarkable with hospital systems expanding across county lines through the development of satellite offices.  What once was a binary marketplace made up of doctor’s offices and acute care facilities has blossomed into a complex network that now includes urgent care, high-tech treatment, and specialty practice facilities.

The trend has been a boon to New Jersey office owners, as many of those facilities have been adapted into healthcare uses, including Hunterdon Healthcare, which created a state-of-the-art medical facility including an imaging lab and a surgery center in Bridgewater from a former Bank of America office building.

Technology-Driven Advancements. Just as educational spaces have become more technologically advanced, so have architectural tools. When we were overseeing the construction of the Frank J. Gargiulo Campus in Secaucus we were able to keep the entire project on time and budget through the use of Revit which allowed us to see progress through a 3D model of the school.

The first cad-cam programs, which allowed for digital design on personal computers, are more than 40 years old now, but the real strides are in front of us, with Artificial Intelligence promising enhancements in speed and proficiency that we cannot even begin to estimate.

This article originally appeared in NJBiz