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How architects can take advantage of economic cycles, even the downturns

How architects can take advantage of economic cycles, even the downturns 960 540 DMR Architects

DMR YMCA Entry View

Lloyd Rosenberg, AIA, president and CEO of Hasbrouck Heights-based DMR Architects has been through several economic cycles, including three recessions, since he started his company in 1991.

Fueled by the recent strength of the construction industry, DMR is celebrating its 25th anniversary with its largest headcount and is recording its highest revenue.

While not immune to economic cycles, the firm has used downturns as strategic thresholds in which it increases market share and adapt to new trends, often diversifying into new practice areas and adding key talent in recessions.

According to Mr. Rosenberg, the firm comes by its counter-intuitive growth strategy as a natural consequence of its beginnings: “In 1991, we only had three people, we couldn’t get any smaller so there was no place to go but up.”

Here are some thoughts on how he’s been able to grow his business through three recessions:

Using a Core Competency to Build a Diversified Practice – and Brand:

DMR’s diversification has many benefits and is the work of an intended strategy that had its roots in a single practice area. Working on various project categories with a wide variety of industries not only insulates the firm against cycles, it also keeps the staff interested and challenged, cross-pollinating the firm. But getting there is another matter — diversified professional practices are grown one piece at a time, and creating adjoining and complementary services, while an intended strategy, is more art than science.

Shortly after Rosenberg founded DMR, it earned the reputation as an esteemed school architect, ultimately serving more than 100 school systems throughout New Jersey. While working with schools, he developed relationships with municipal leaders and recognized there was a need for updated municipal buildings and, in some cases, urban planning, inspiring him to create a team that could address these issues as a cohesive unit.

“New Jersey’s multi-family needs have changed over the past decade, necessitating municipalities to collaborate with architecture firms that can not only create a vision plan for them, but also work them through zoning and other practical issues so that they can become a more sustainable community,” said Fran Reiner, PP, LLA, Senior Urban Designer, who joined DMR in [year].

DMR’s diversification built on its initial strengths in school, articulating out to areas where it could apply its expertise profitably to new client categories.

For example, its assignment for the new 82,000 square foot Meadowlands YMCA (pictured top) includes design, permitting, planning and engineering roles — which are vertical and horizontal integrations of its legacy strength in school projects. Simultaneously, it is the architect for the new High Tech High School, which will be the most advanced high school project in the country.

High Tech High School

Rendering of the new High Tech school.

Keeping clients happy/relationship building:

According to Rosenberg, “You’ve got to listen to what people are saying and convey that you sincerely care about what they need and about helping to find it.”

In South Toms River, DMR helped administrators see that they could get the municipal building that suited their needs for several generations by repurposing a daycare center. It has also recently worked with Hunterdon Medical to convert an office building into a 55,000 square foot satellite medical office, providing more convenient services to its patients in a warm and inviting atmosphere.

Keeping Staff happy:

One of the great things about the culture at DMR is that with so many types of projects, there are constant opportunities for staff to collaborate and learn from each other. It makes each project seem fresh to the staff involved and results in more creative ideas for DMR’s clients.

Rosenberg also strives to create an atmosphere that is more like a peppy family than an office, most recently celebrating its 25th Anniversary year by providing staff with 25 daily surprises including a hot breakfast party, in-house massages and several 3 p.m. sweets breaks. Birthdays are a big to-do throughout the year, and they also celebrate the Winter Holidays yearly with an ugly sweater contest.

His employees appreciates his efforts to create opportunities for professional growth and personal comfort; the staff section of the company web site boasts that more than 13 of the staff have been with Rosenberg for more than 10 years.

“It’s energizing to know that while today, I’m working on the interior redesign of an apartment community, tomorrow, I might be managing the adaptive reuse of an office building into a police station, or assisting a local Community College create a space to accommodate for an entirely new administrative process” said Kurt Vierheilig, AIA, LEED AP, Senior Designer and Project Manager.

The staff’s tenure and experience also support the continuity of service in segments whose robustness occurs in different parts of the economic cycle. In turn, DMR always has the personnel base capable of shifting focus as the client base evolves.

This article originally appeared on Real Estate Weekly.

Hudson County’s new $160 million high school will be ‘one of a kind’

Hudson County’s new $160 million high school will be ‘one of a kind’ 960 540 DMR Architects

by Corey McDonald

Current and future students at High Tech High School have a lot to look forward to.

High Tech, one of the Hudson County Schools of Technology, will move into its $160 million new home in Laurel Hill Park in September 2018. The 340,000-square-foot campus will offer amenities and technology not typically seen at your average high school

“I think this (high school) is going to be one of a kind for a while,” said Lloyd Rosenberg, president and CEO for DMR Architects, the architectural firm managing the project. “Certainly this is going to make Hudson County – from an educational high school level – really supersede anything that they’ve had in the past.”

The new building will house 1,500 students in grades 9 through 12—250 more students than High Tech’s current facility in North Bergen, which will become the new home for North Bergen High School’s 10th, 11th and 12th grades after the move.

Four separate wings will be built for each of the vocational branches and career academies that High Tech offers: vocational training, architecture and engineering, applied science, and performing arts.

Each wing will have specific technological designs and features to advance its learning environment. A hydroponics lab will be available in the applied science wing, while the architecture and engineering program will have labs elsewhere.

The theater wing, meanwhile, will have its share of advantages including studios for dance, drama, TV production studio, and digital video.

The building will also have shared spaces, including a main gymnasium with bleacher seating, a cafeteria, a 316-seat performing arts theater, a black box theater that will seat 100, a media technology center, as well as yoga, judo and CrossFit rooms.

While students and staff will reap the benefits of these new features, the whole community will benefit from its energy-efficient technologies.

“We’re really designing this to be the most energy-efficient building possible,” Rosenberg said.

These advancements include a wind turbine and solar panels to generate renewable energy. The building will also be equipped with rain harvesting technology to use for its water supply.

“Not only will it be energy efficient, but we’re going to show students why and how it (is energy efficient),” Rosenberg added. “We’ll have equipment within the building that will be able to monitor the energy. On a daily basis you’re going to be able to see how much savings or how much energy is being used for different things in the building.”

The county announced plans for the new school in 2014. The state approved to fund 59 percent of the school while the county pays for the remainder. The foundations of the building are set and the first level is completely floored, according to Rosenberg.

“This facility will embellish these great programs the school has and give (students) a whole new world,” Rosenberg said.

This article originally appeared on

Meadowlands YMCA expected to create jobs, serve 20,000

Meadowlands YMCA expected to create jobs, serve 20,000 960 540 DMR Architects

Meadowlands YMCA Rendering

A rendering is shown as people begin to gather prior to the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Meadowlands Area YMCA in East Rutherford on Thursday, July 28, 2016. (Photo: Mitsu Yasukawa/Staff Photographer)

by Linda Moss

With its new home set to open early next year, the Meadowlands Area YMCA will create more than 100 full-time and part-time jobs and be able to serve 20,000 more people than the organization does now, an official said on Thursday.

Jane Egan, president and chief executive of the YMCA, offered an update on the renovation of the former headquarters and training center of the Nets basketball team. The building will become an 83,200-square-foot community center for her organization. Egan addressed about 80 people, including many local and Bergen County officials, during a construction ceremony at the former practice facility at 390 Murray Hill Parkway.

Once the renovation work is complete, the Meadowlands YMCA, known as the “Y Without Walls” because it hasn’t had a central location for 96 years, will finally have a full-service center with the two existing NBA-grade basketball courts; a daycare center; a wellness center; exercise and dance studios; teen and senior citizen centers; a theater; technology labs; a rock-climbing wall; a food concession; and a retail shop.

The new YMCA facility “will be a beacon to the community, a center that encourages health, supports families, invites diversity and responds to the many needs of the community,” Egan said.

The second phase of the work includes construction of a 9,600-square-foot aqua center with a competition pool, which will be added to the main building. The YMCA is awaiting zoning approvals from the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority for the pool, and still needs to raise the $3 million to $3.5 million that it will cost to build through its capital campaign, Egan said.

“We do need to make sure we have the capacity and the finances to do that part of the project,” Egan said. “The best-case scenario is that the pool phase would be a couple of months behind the main part of the building. It may be six months behind. It may be a year behind. It may be two or three years behind depending on our ability to raise the funds.”

Originally, the YMCA projected that it would cost about $7 million to revamp the Nets’ facility, including the cost of the pool. But that overall estimate rose to $9 million when it was discovered that more alterations would have to be made to the Nets’ building than originally anticipated, Egan said.

The YMCA will be hiring more than 100 people for the new facility, full- and part-time, adding to the organization’s existing 300-employee staff, Egan said. And with the large new center the YMCA will be able to serve 32,000 people a year, up from 12,000 now, she said.

Currently the YMCA operates programs out of more than 50 locations in such towns as East Rutherford, North Arlington, Wood-Ridge, Wallington, Lyndhurst, Maywood, Haskell, Little Ferry, Edgewater and Hasbrouck Heights.

At the event, officials donned yellow construction helmets and wielded sledge hammers at the Nets’ building, which has been gutted and isn’t air conditioned, to symbolically mark the next stage of the renovation.

That group included Egan; YMCA Chairman Ron Simoncini; state Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Wood-Ridge; Bergen County Executive James Tedesco; East Rutherford Mayor James Cassella; Wayne Hasenbalg, president of the Sports and Exposition Authority; and James Kirkos, president and chief executive officer of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber.

The YMCA’s day care center is named after the Mara family, financed with a gift from John Mara, president and chief executive of the New York Giants.
The Nets left East Rutherford to move to the new $50 million Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The YMCA had purchased a warehouse in East Rutherford not far from the Nets practice center for $5.3 million in December 2012, intending to use that for its home. But the organization decided to move into the Nets building instead when it became available, and sold the warehouse earlier this year for $6.2 million.

This article originally appeared on

Hunterdon Healthcare Celebrates Opening of Medical Office Building in Somerset

Hunterdon Healthcare Celebrates Opening of Medical Office Building in Somerset 789 444 DMR Architects

DMR joined Hunterdon Healthcare in celebrating the ribbon cutting of their new medical office in Somerset, N.J., representing the completion of the first phase of construction, as well as Hunterdon Healthcare’s expansion into Somerset County.

The former Bank of America building on Route 22 in Bridgewater now accommodates specialists in gastroenterology, endocrinology, urology, breast surgery, cardiology, physical and occupational therapy, imaging, diagnostic services and procedural services. In a partnership with the hospital, Atlantic Health will lease space in the building.

DMR designed the 55,000 square foot project, which required a very complex construction phasing plan. Construction continues on two more floors of the building. The three-story space has been designed to be patient-friendly, and includes features such as arched ceilings to create a light and energetic atmosphere, and large windows that overlook surrounding trees.

DMR is also completing another medical office project for Hunterdon Healthcare, the interiors of interiors of a 13,000 square foot new office building in Washington, Warren County, N.J. for Hunterdon Healthcare’s family practice, OT/PT and behavioral health. Construction on that project began earlier in 2016.

DMR Joins the Hudson County Improvement Authority in Breaking Ground on the New High Tech High School

DMR Joins the Hudson County Improvement Authority in Breaking Ground on the New High Tech High School 789 444 DMR Architects

DMR Architects joined members of the Hudson County Improvement Authority, Hudson County Schools of Technology, members of the Design-Build team and numerous elected officials on May 17 to break ground on the new High Tech High School in Secaucus.

Under a design-build contract with the Hudson County Improvement Authority, DMR is serving as the design consultant to the general contractor, Terminal Construction Corporation, on the new High Tech High School, part of the Hudson County Schools of Technology system. When the facility opens, it will replace the undersized and aging High Tech High School in North Bergen, N.J.

The 340,000 square foot facility will service 1,500 students in grades 9-12. The school will support the curriculum of the Hudson County Schools of Technology, which is broken down into four schools, known as Career Academies. Each school will be housed in a separate wing of the new facility.

The school will have many advanced educational to support career-prep curriculum, and will also include advanced details such as geo-thermal heating and cooling, solar panels, wind-generated turbines and green roofs.

The building will seek LEED Gold certification from the United States Green Building Council and will serve as a teaching tool to advance the school’s educational mission.

The school will open in September 2018.

Health care case study has real estate experts talking at conference

Health care case study has real estate experts talking at conference 2000 1125 DMR Architects

Ted Zangari, one of the panel’s moderators: “In the final analysis, it all comes down to real estate.” – (AARON HOUSTON)

All told, 20 panelists turned out last week for the Rutgers Center for Real Estate’s Future of Healthcare Real Estate Symposium in New Brunswick, from health care executives and consultants to developers and public officials.

They were asked to offer insights on a case study involving a potential acquisition by a fictional entity known as Halstead Healthcare System, a dominant provider that was weighing its growth options and considering the acquisition of an urban hospital and its real estate assets.

Below is a sampling of comments from speakers as they went through the case study and discussed broader trends in the health care and real estate industries:

Sills Cummis & Gross attorney Ted Zangari, who co-moderated the panel with George Jacobs, on the important ties between the two industries:

“We know that real estate is not the driving force behind the consolidation of health care systems or the unpackaging of health care services out into to the neighborhoods. But make no mistake: In the final analysis, it all comes down to real estate… This is one of the few areas, one of the few industries, where brick and mortar still will matter.”

Jeff LeBenger, chairman and CEO of Summit Health Management, on the decisions that hospitals face about where to locate their ancillary services and how that impacts their real estate footprint:

“With consumerism, people are now going to start looking at where to spend their health care dollar. And it’s going to be moving into the ambulatory setting. So in terms of the real estate, you’re going to have to (ask) ‘Do we put it into brick-and-mortar hospital space or do we move it more into ambulatory space.’”

Zayed Baker, chief pediatric officer for Riverside Medical Group, on the increasing demand for medical office spaces to be larger, more diversified and closer to residents:

“The reason for that is the market. Patients now come out and they want to know that they can get one-stop shopping. They don’t want to just come to the pediatrician’s office… This is the medical home concept. We don’t take care of a patient—we take care of the families—and this is where health care is going.

“Because of the market demand, because of the convenience patients are insisting on, we have responded by giving larger amounts of real estate and health care deeper into the communities.”

Bill Colgan, managing partner at Community Healthcare Associates LLC, on the shift from inpatient to outpatient care and the challenges and opportunities that come from trying to transition or repurpose a hospital:

“What we’ve also realized, if you take a look at the percentage of the GNP, health care is not going down—it’s going up. So, clearly, what that demonstrates to a group like ours is that there is a need for bricks and mortar, there is a need for health care facilities.

“Generally, when we look at facilities, what we like very much about hospital settings is that they are community-based. When you talk about providing services in a community, hospitals were built traditionally as community-based institutions. Everyone had family members that worked in the hospitals. Everyone, at the end of the year, no matter what your socioeconomic level, you wrote a check in support of your hospital. This is something we’ve known for generations.

“As we watch the outmigration, we do believe that there is a huge opportunity. I think New Jersey is just behind the curve in terms of trying to play catch up. There was no real plan on how we transition health care.”

Mary Beth Kuzmanovich, Colliers International’s national director for health care services, on the debate in New Jersey over how nonprofit hospitals will begin to pay for municipal services:

“States across the country are watching New Jersey to see how this plays out… Those systems that have enjoyed a not-for-profit tax status recognize that this wave is moving across the country, and they’re very anxious to see how New Jersey resolves it and use that to pattern opportunities to implement in other states.”

Francis Reiner, redevelopment consultant with DMR Architects, on how he would advise Halstead Healthcare System to redevelop 20 acres of excess land that would come with a potential acquisition:

“Our approach to this would be probably very similar to the developer side, which would be what is the maximum and best use for that particular property in terms of redevelopment, given its proximity to transit, given its proximity to being in an urban environment.”

Andrew Bush, vice president of real estate for Cooper University Health Care, on the difficulty and unpredictability of dealing with real estate in an acquisition:

“Real estate really has to be looked at case by case. There is an enormous amount of strategic thinking and financing that goes into these long-term real estate assets. And that encumbers them to a certain extent. Whatever the legacy issues are—it could be a lease that you can’t unwind, it could be an ownership position that is much more fractured and complicated than you envisioned going on. You may have deferred maintenance issues, legacy issues that have stretched out economic problems not envisioned, not underwritten in the initial deal… The list continues, and it’s our goal to try to figure how to solve that.

“Ultimately, that real estate asset—it’s not our core business. It’s the platform through which we deliver care. And if there’s a big transition in the way we envision delivering that care, it takes a long time for us to unwind and plan around that.”

This article originally appeared on NJBiz.

Architecture firm looking toward health care projects

Architecture firm looking toward health care projects 960 540 DMR Architects

Lloyd Rosenberg

Lloyd Rosenberg, CEO and president, DMR Architects. – (PHOTO BY AARON HOUSTON)

by Joshua Burd

For DMR Architects, a relationship with Robert Wood Johnson Health System goes back 15 years and spans more than 20 projects—from nursing stations to a nuclear medicine facility.

And much of that work came before the sea changes affecting today’s health care sector.

It’s one reason why Lloyd Rosenberg sees the industry as a potential growth area for his Hasbrouck Heights-based firm. With shifts in how and where health care is delivered, he’s confident those changes will translate into new space needs and new requirements for the design community.

“We hope it’s a growth area,” said Rosenberg, the firm’s CEO and president. “We think there’s a lot of opportunities that are coming out of the changes that are being made, and we’re trying to stay on top of it and keep everybody happy.”

One of DMR’s most recent projects is especially reflective of one prominent trend: mergers and partnerships in New Jersey’s hospital sector. The firm has designed and is now overseeing construction of a 55,000-square-foot building in Bridgewater for Hunterdon Healthcare, which is expanding in Somerset County under a partnership with Atlantic Health System.

Plans call for renovating a three-story former Bank of America building on Route 22 and retrofitting it to include medical offices for a host of specialists from both systems, an ambulatory surgical center and an imaging center. Completion is slated for the end of this year.

It’s one of two projects DMR is doing for Hunterdon Healthcare—with the other being in Washington Township, Warren County—and Rosenberg said the plans reflect the changing mission of the industry.

“It’s become more competitive now, (and) it’s more evident now that health care is expanding into where people are living, as opposed to everybody going to the hospital,” he said. “Now most of the surgeries and other things are done in outpatient facilities.”

For its health care clients, Rosenberg DMR is often helping with programming—determining what their needs and space requirements are, while potentially planning beyond the current project.

“It’s 50/50 that people know exactly what they need, and others need assistance in determining it,” he said. “You’ve got to determine what you need today and you also have to determine what you might need in the future… Is it downsizing, is it upsizing, is it growth? All of those factors come into play when you’re designing new spaces.”

DMR also has done projects for Hoboken University Medical Center, Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck and Hackensack University Medical Center. With RWJ, which has since merged with Barnabas Health, the firm’s most recent work includes renovations to the nurse’s stations at the system’s flagship hospital in New Brunswick.

The project called for renovations to three floors that are 2,000 square feet each, with the aim of enhancing the efficiency of the nurses and making it more aesthetically pleasing. DMR recently was hired to redesign the 3,500-square-foot first floor of RWJ’s Somerset Street office building.

“We’ve done a lot of different projects with different health care organizations, and Robert Wood has been an excellent client,” Rosenberg said. “We’ve done a lot of work there.”

This article originally appeared on NJBiz.

DMR Architects CEO sees opportunity to grow his firm in China

DMR Architects CEO sees opportunity to grow his firm in China 960 540 DMR Architects

by Joshua Burd

In mid-November, Lloyd Rosenberg was a long way from his home state of New Jersey.

But perhaps it takes that kind of journey to see what he saw during his 10-day trip in China, one that included tours of several breathtaking, historic villages in the southwestern region of the country.

“They were absolutely magnificent,” said Rosenberg, CEO and president of DMR Architects, in Hasbrouck Heights. “They were built on hillsides, built on rivers—it was spectacular.”

For Rosenberg, they are among the lasting images from a trip that could help grow his firm’s presence in China. DMR has since partnered with a Beijing-based architecture firm, Long On Group, in submitting designs for a rail-served 24-acre site in Lishui City that the local government hopes to redevelop.

The proposals, which are due this week, aim to transform the area around a high-speed railway station into a tourism destination that will include hotels, retail, restaurants, entertainment and public ground transportation.

“They’re very aggressive in planning, very aggressive in development, very aggressive in entertainment,” he said. “I would say the biggest thing I saw was the amount of tourism that they’re promoting—internal to China—people in China traveling around to see other parts of their country and be tourists.

“It’s not dissimilar to us.”

But as Rosenberg’s firm gets involved in redevelopment overseas, his trip also allowed him to weigh in on how to preserve China’s history.

This involvement stems largely from Rosenberg’s longtime friendship with James Jao, a fellow architect who once practiced in New York City before moving to Beijing more than 25 years ago. DMR has done consulting work for Jao’s firm, Long On Group, prompting Rosenberg and his staff to visit China several times in recent years.

His most recent visit took place in November, when he was invited to speak at the Qindongnan Conference on Preserving the Traditional Chinese Village. Appearing before some 500 senior government and planning officials, Rosenberg said one of his main objectives was to explain the process of preserving historic buildings and sites in the U.S., with the idea China could adopt such an approach for its own small villages that are exponentially older than anything in his home country.

“We have a method in place that exists that seems to work,” said Rosenberg, who was “honored to be able to speak as a representative of the architectural community” in the U.S. “And if they want to model something, it’s a model that could be replicated.”

Lloyd Rosenberg speaking at the Qindongnan Conference on Preserving the Traditional Chinese Village. – (DMR ARCHITECTS)

He noted that the U.S. approach is often tied to tourism and entertainment, which presents one avenue for preserving China’s older villages as residents leave to pursue education and jobs in more urban areas.

For Rosenberg, the trip was bookended by private tours of villages in southwestern China, including Guiyang, Kaili City, Qiandongnan and Lishui, he said. The journey offered him a different perspective from his previous visits, which were tied to DMR’s master planning work for a 420-acre community in Shanghai’s Xin Jiang Wan township.

That plan included residential housing for 16,000 residents, a pedestrian retail strip, community and recreational facility, school building and office park, Rosenberg said. The project features include streams, rivers, lakes and landscape that connects one back to nature, which he said is at the heart of the Chinese culture.

It’s an example of the importance of towing the line between redevelopment and preservation in China, a dynamic that DMR Architects now has in mind as it seeks to do work in Lishui City and elsewhere.

“The Chinese people have a history that they’re proud of and they want to maintain that,” Rosenberg said. “They’re very proud of their history, they’re proud of their nationality and their culture and they want to visit the new and the old in China, so they want to visit new places that are being developed and they want to visit the old places that go back to their ancestors.”

This article originally appeared on NJBiz.