I can still remember the smell of the fresh, forest green paint when I first walked through the doors of 14 Fairmount Avenue. I remember visualizing the pictures we had taken earlier in the year before construction began. I kept shaking my head in amazement, thinking about how unrecognizable the building was now. At the same time, I was excited to be in a space I had helped create, and I strongly believed in what we were doing.
That was over 30 years ago.
Now, here I am – in the same building and I can smell that paint again. I’m standing along the sidewall of our brand new café. It’s the grand opening of our first coworking space, located on the ground floor. I stand amid a packed house made up of press, local leaders, some old friends, new friends and our tenants. I have goosebumps as I listen to my oldest son, Jeff Jr., officially welcome the crowd to The Station, “a Garibaldi Group owned and operated coworking space”.
He goes on to note how The Garibaldi Group has “grown with Chatham as much as Chatham has grown with us,” and how we “look forward to being a part of this new chapter in Chatham’s history.”
New chapter. You can say that again.
Nostalgia is a funny thing. When it sets in, it leaves you uncertain of exactly how to feel. Are you grateful for the past and for the memories that you are basking in, or are you regretful that the time has gone?
Today, it is a more clear feeling than ever before. I am filled with excitement. I’m proud of the history that brought us here, but even more, I am proud of the future leading us forward.
For nearly two years our team has researched, tested, projected and researched again to help make this a reality. Construction managers and contractors have worked through weekends, while designers made numerous trips to hem and haw over colors and fabrics. My son Jeff Jr. and our marketing manager, Michael prepared endlessly to figure out what they wanted to create and were relentless in pushing us to move forward and be bold. Now it’s real, and now I am once again able to stand in this building with a fresh sense of pride.
“You don’t hear it often,” said Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, our special guest for the event, “but I think right now the suburbs are incredibly exciting.”
I can validate that. For the last 6 years, I have been on the frontlines of the next phase of suburban redevelopment, sitting at my perch at Bell Works where we have been the exclusive office leasing brokers since the project began. It, in fact, is an exciting time for the suburbs.
Much like it was 30 years ago when we first redeveloped the former Chatham Borough Town Hall at 14 Fairmount, the look and feel of these suburban streets and downtowns are changing. They are adapting to accommodate a new generation – a generation that works hard expects more and strives for better; better work/life balance, better options, better atmosphere. Meeting those requirements will take a literal village to accomplish, but I believe our state will be the leaders in testing and perfecting the formula to make it work.
Now, I would never claim to be able to predict the future. I’ve been surprised far too many times in my life to be so bold.
However, I can say without hesitation that I feel confident and inspired by the work we are doing today, and The Station is a prime example of that. We have spent decades doing work all over the country and even the globe and we will continue to do so, but today it is obvious to me that there is plenty of work to do in our own backyard. I am enthralled by the idea of continuing further down the rabbit hole and being an agent of change in the great state of New Jersey.
The Station represents a new beginning. One of many steps we, as a company, plan to take in the coming months and years to play a larger role in this modern real estate landscape, and it feels like it did 30 years ago all over again.