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Design for Blue Onyx Companies’ 24½ Van Houten in Paterson Emphasizes Historic Preservation, Adaptive Reuse and Sustainability 

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J., Apr. 21, 2020 – Villanova University took top honors and the $5,000 prize in NAIOP New Jersey’s Sixth Annual University Challenge Case Study Competition. The students made their presentations to the judges via ZOOM due to COVID-19 restrictions. The winning team was to be announced at NAIOP NJ’s Industry Insights dinner, which was scheduled to take place April 6th at the MC Hotel in Montclair. The Villanova team has been invited to attend and be recognized at the commercial real estate development association’s President’s Awards Dinner in November. 

Gene Preston, NAIOP NJ President, said, “This annual competition serves as a platform for educating local officials and students on development challenges, while promoting engagement of our student members with municipal leaders and providing innovative designs that have real value for sponsor companies. Each of the student teams and their advisors are to be applauded for the hard work and considerable creativity they put into their projects.” 

The Villanova team of Hunter Cuthbertson, Kyle Keenan, Elliott Eyring and Matthew Winschuh joined student teams from Baruch College, Monmouth University and Montclair State University in presenting concepts for site sponsor Blue Onyx Companies’ redevelopment of a former silk mill at 24½ Van Houten Street in Paterson, N.J. Each of the case studies focused on identifying and incorporating the site’s historic and regulatory requirements, as well as providing a mix of live/work, experiential retail and dedicated creative space.  

“We’re so honored to have been a part of this year’s NAIOP New Jersey University Challenge,” said Levi Kelman, CEO of Blue Onyx Companies. “The opportunity to see the fresh perspective these students brought to the process was inspiring, and we were truly impressed by their efforts. The teams really brought their best thinking to this challenge, and components from all of their presentations are very much in consideration for our final plan. We’re so happy to see such strong potential in our next generation of commercial real estate leaders.” 

The judges for this year’s competition included Levi Kelman, Blue Onyx Companies; Jeff Schotz, Newmark Knight Frank; Adam Pasternak, Russo Development; Matthias Hollwich, HWKN; David Nuse, NJ Economic Development Authority; and John Coté, Langan Engineering and Environmental Services. They considered financial feasibility, design excellence, resilience and sustainability, and client goals in selecting the winner. 

The Villanova University proposal emphasized the restoration of the buildings and the entire landscape, and capitalized on the site’s location near the Great Falls National Historic Park. Plans included enhancing the experience of tourists visiting the area while elevating Paterson’s economic base by creating a community center that encapsulated the rich history of the city. 

The historic identity of the site’s existing buildings would be maintained while allowing for the renovation of the interiors to house commercial, residential and retail uses as well as exhibit and studio space for artists and a dedicated cultural center. Sustainability elements included a pedestrian-oriented infrastructure, AquaCore technology to track energy usage, multi-stream recycling, a community garden and green roof, and ample greenspace including a public walkway along the Passaic River. 

“This win means so much to us as a team and a university,” said team captain Hunter Cuthbertson. “The Paterson project presented unique challenges and provided us with a fantastic forum to hone essential skills and showcase not only our knowledge of real estate fundamentals, but our creativity and imagination. Our success cannot be highlighted without thanking our faculty advisor and coach, Professor Tony Ziccardi, whose knowledge, advice and passion for the real estate industry will stick with us through many different phases of our careers.” 

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Photo Caption: The Villanova University winning team of (L-R) Hunter Cuthbertson, Elliott Eyring, Kyle Keenan and Matthew Winschuh. 

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