Real Estate and Development

"We add value from the moment a client eyes a piece of land until he realizes his vision."

Porzio’s real estate experience ranges from virgin land deals to brownfields redevelopment projects, from financing transactions to major litigation.  Regardless of the size or complexity of the matter, our attorneys vigorously pursue the best interest of our clients.  The real estate practice group engages in all aspects of real estate legal issues:

Land Use

Before acquiring property, and at each step along the way, Porzio lawyers help clients fully understand the intricacies of developing or redeveloping property, identifying and working to resolve the often hidden challenges that threaten development plans.  Are there environmental concerns?  What permits will be needed?  Are there zoning restrictions that make approvals unlikely? Is there local support?  Recognizing and addressing potential impediments up front is critical to a successful project.

At Porzio, we recognize that knowing the law is not enough; one must know and understand the people and dynamics that intersect in each development project.  We pursue a holistic approach that includes bringing impacted parties on board, assembling the right people or experts to prove that the prospective change can be positive, and educating authorities and neighbors. Ultimately, those affected need to believe that the proposed changes will improve the neighborhood, protect and enhance the quality of life and bring new tax ratables without causing overcrowding, congestion, pollution or other negative impacts. 

Our team’s experience in processing land use approvals is substantial, including obtaining hundreds of approvals since 1975.  Unfortunately, the land use arena in New Jersey has become a battlefield. We lead clients through municipal, county and state permitting processes; developer, redeveloper and joint venture agreements; bonding; and agreements with municipal utilities authorities. 

Once plans are approved, we pursue additional client objectives: contract and change order drafting, building permits, local and DCA plan review, field changes disputes and a host of other project-specific actions.

Sometimes, problems seem insurmountable.  Yet, thoughtful and strategic positioning, open communications, and creative solutions make a significant difference in the outcome. 

Case studies:

  • A client approached us after seeking a means to permit the creation of 100 condominium units on property zoned for office use.  Before our engagement, a use variance was denied.  We promptly scheduled meetings with neighboring property owners and members of the governing body.  Through pertinent analysis and discussion, we convinced all those concerned that the proposed residential condominiums were a better land use alternative in terms of a ratable and enhanced neighboring property values.  We then made formal presentations to the Planning Board and the governing body resulting in the introduction of an ordinance to change the zoning and allow the proposed development as a matter of right without any variances.
  • A client sought to develop a 500-acre tract in Morris County that presented significant topographical and environmental challenges, including contaminated groundwater migration from an adjacent property. After meeting with the adjoining property owners, we presented a groundwater remediation plan to the NJDEP and sought approval from the Wetlands Mitigation Council for recognition and credit for a portion of the land included in a transition area-averaging plan.  Advocacy of the plan resulted in mitigation credit and NJDEP approval for the subdivision.  The strategy satisfied all stakeholders and resulted in a highly successful project.
  • Our client bought a hotel with plans for a multi-million dollar renovation.  We spent several months working with the developer and the municipality on a multitude of code issues, including fire suppression, electrical, handicap access and stormwater management.  We obtained the required land use approvals and building permits, assisted with a liquor license transfer and, when the renovation was completed, helped the client successfully and profitably flip the property.
  • In connection with a residential development in Randolph Township we argued before the Supreme Court of New Jersey, resulting in the reported decision of Pizzo Mantin Group v. Township of Randolph, 137 N.J. 216 (1994).   One of the most frequently cited precedents in the land use field, this case stands for the proposition that Planning Boards do not have the authority to deny a subdivision application based on considerations of the general welfare purposes of the municipal land use law.  The Court ruled that the Planning Board must approve a subdivision unless it fails to comply with specific ordinance requirements adopted by the municipality.
Commercial Real Estate Transactions, Sale Transfers, Leasing And Finance

Acquisition and Sale of Real Property

Rarely is the transfer of property without complications, but, based on years of experience handling sophisticated commercial real estate transactions, we prepare and guide clients to anticipate, address and solve potential issues.  We handle the transfer of all types of improved and unimproved property, including office, retail, industrial, multi-family, mixed-use and recreational. From the seller’s perspective, we identify and minimize risks and expedite the closing process.  When representing purchasers, we coordinate thorough due diligence to eliminate surprises after the closing.  We advise clients on the types of permits and approvals that may be required, assist with financing, if necessary, and structure the deal to make sure the purchaser is able to use the property as intended.  We also assist buyers and sellers of real property in a variety of transactions including tax-deferred exchanges, TICs and conversions of LLCs. 

Leasing

At Porzio, we represent tenants, landlords, sublandlords, subtenants and agents in complicated commercial leasing transactions. We have a depth of experience in all types of lease transactions, including space, ground, sub-, build-to-suit and master leases.  We take a practical approach to leasing, applying a sense of urgency and concentrating on the completion of negotiations in a timely manner, while  protecting clients from potential pitfalls.  Because no two leases are exactly the same, our team strives to structure each transaction based on its particular characteristics. We recognize that each transaction has multiple facets, including title, zoning, organizational, environmental and, of course, tax implications.  Our team’s collective experience enables us to fulfill the objectives and fully meet the needs of our clients.  

Financing

As obtaining and closing financing has become more difficult, it is increasingly important to engage experienced finance counsel.  At Porzio, we help our clients tailor each transaction to meet the client’s expectations, objectives and needs.  Our lawyers bring years of practical experience and real estate industry knowledge to finance transactions, allowing us to provide cost-effective, responsive representation as both lenders’ and borrowers’ counsel. 

As borrowers’ and lenders’ counsel, we handle:

  • Acquisition financing 
  • Refinancings 
  • Securitized lending 
  • Construction and permanent loans 
  • Bridge loans
  • Conduit loans
  • Revolving lines of credit
  • Letters of credit
  • Economic development bond financings
  • Synthetic leases and sale-leaseback transactions
  • Mezzanine lending

In addition, we work with our bankruptcy attorneys, when appropriate, to bring seamless service to clients during workouts, loan restructurings, foreclosures and bankruptcies.

Litigation And Dispute Management

When disputes arise, clients look for a lawyer who can proactively represent them to resolve the issues. Porzio’s experienced litigators thoroughly understand the underlying real estate issues and have the experience to provide our clients with dispute management and litigation counseling.  Our attorneys approach complex settlement negotiations and mediations with the objective of seeking amicable resolutions whenever beneficial to our clients’ interests.  However, when litigation is unavoidable, our team is equipped to handle all aspects of the process.  Our attorneys prosecute or defend complex claims in both state and federal courts, before arbitrators and before agencies, boards and other tribunals.

Commercial Real Estate Transaction Litigation

Our litigation and transactional attorneys work collaboratively to deliver cost-effective representation that  protects clients’ property and contract interests.  We handle a wide range of disputes involving the sale of real property, breaches of real estate contract claims, deed and covenant restriction claims, real estate brokerage commissions claims, and claims arising from financing and leasing contracts.

 

Foreclosure and Lender Litigation

In this time of unprecedented levels of foreclosure filings and bankruptcies, impacted clients turn to us for advice on a variety of issues concerning foreclosures, workouts and lender-related litigation.  We represent secured lenders, developers and borrowers in litigation that arises in connection with mortgage loans or other real estate-related financings. Our experience includes workouts, tax liens and mortgage foreclosures, actions involving guarantors, lender liability claims and relief for secured lenders from bankruptcy stays.

Title Insurance and Title Litigation

Our attorneys quickly analyze title issues and recommend appropriate courses of action.  We represent private property owners and national title insurance companies in actions based on boundary disputes, easements, adverse possession claims, judgment and other liens and riparian rights.

Commercial Landlord/Tenant Litigation

Commercial landlords and tenants need to know their rights and responsibilities under a lease.  We provide experienced counseling in connection with such disputes.  When litigation cannot be avoided, we are equipped to guide our clients through the process.  Examples of the types of suits we handle range from breach of lease, constructive eviction, return of security and dispossession actions to non-payment and suits against lease guarantors.

Environmental Cleanup Cost and Insurance Recovery

Whether in representing clients in the recovery of environmental cleanup costs or negotiating and litigating claims among neighbors, landlords, tenants, prior owners and operators, we continuously evaluate the best method to resolve environmental disputes, be it trial, arbitration or mediation.  Today, financing opportunities abound for the redevelopment of brownfield properties and we can identify and secure these incentives.  Our assistance has led to the successful closure of many deals, turning opportunities into profitable ventures.  
Click here to view Environmental Law and Litigation Practice

 

Professional Claims Defense Litigation

At times, a professional architect, surveyor, wetlands delineator, title agent or other real estate- related professional faces suit for alleged professional negligence.  When that occurs, it is critical for the professional to retain an attorney who is familiar with the professional’s practice and the defense of such claims.  We have the background and experience to help clients preserve their professional reputations while efficiently litigating their matters.

Prerogative Writ Litigation and Zoning Appeals

Not every development project receives proper consideration by municipal land use boards and other governmental agencies.  Our litigation attorneys have experience representing developers before trial and appellate courts, seeking to affirm or overturn governmental actions.  Such matters include appeals of land use board decisions, municipal redevelopment initiatives, appeals objecting to the unlawful adoption of zoning ordinances, projects seeking to advance the construction of low and moderate income housing, and appeals of improper determinations by state and local officials regarding permitting and environmental issues.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

For clients who wish to resolve disputes without litigation, our seasoned negotiators are prepared to handle mediations and arbitrations.  In fact, several of our attorneys are approved mediators under the New Jersey statewide mediation program.  We have the skills and experience to mediate disputes, helping clients to preserve business relationships. 

Case Studies: 

We represented a commercial lender in successfully and quickly obtaining both foreclosure of real property and a multi-million dollar monetary judgment against the borrowers and guarantors on the defaulted debt obligations. 

  • We represented a contract purchaser of a multi-million dollar development who correctly refused to close until the seller satisfied certain preconditions. The case began when the seller filed an Order to Show Cause, attempting to compel either an immediate closing or a contract termination. Porzio mounted an aggressive defense and counterclaim, rebuffing the seller’s demands  and causing the case to quickly settle after  the seller fulfilled all closing  obligations.
  • We represented a national title company and its insured, a national mortgage lender.  Both parties were dragged into a sale-leaseback lawsuit between the current and former owners. Porzio convinced all parties that their dispute did not affect our client's secured interest.  As a result, the plaintiff dismissed our client from the case. 
  • We obtained a favorable settlement for a commercial landlord who faced the prospect of suing a guarantor to collect on unpaid rent from a former, now bankrupt, foreign tenant.
  • We represented a wetlands delineator in a suit that alleged that our client had committed malpractice by failing to properly prosecute a wetland application before the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.  Porzio lawyers successfully obtained a dismissal of all claims.
  • We represented a property owner who brought suit against a neighbor, alleging that the neighbor was improperly encroaching on the client's exclusive riparian rights. At mediation, our team helped the parties craft a creative resolution acceptable to all concerned.
Redevelopment

The common law that interprets the statutory redevelopment scheme in New Jersey is evolving rapidly.  As a result, representation in redevelopment matters requires sophisticated business analysis and an innovative and strategic approach, rather than a mechanical commitment to past practices.  Redevelopment projects are, by their very nature, complex, calling into play a variety of issues, from municipal finance and procedure to environmental, land use and political concerns. 

One of the biggest challenges for a redeveloper is the choice of the right attorney and law firm to coordinate the many variables.  It is insufficient merely to be familiar with regulations and statutes.  A lawyer must be in the trenches, aware of the nuances, for instance, of local municipal elections and the issues critical to governmental officials.  Porzio attorneys engage in meaningful communications with municipalities and planning boards to ensure that redevelopment projects have support.    Their relationships with the major players in redevelopment projects help them to identify and understand the key issues.

Our lawyers also have front-line experience with PILOTS, understand the statutory triggers to satisfy redevelopment plans and anticipate the structures which provide flexibility for financing and joint venturing.

When drafting complaints and other pleadings, our strong transactional real estate background enables us to be proactive in framing new issues, helping us to shape the law that governs redevelopment. We have access to seasoned and respected experts — engineers, traffic consultants, environmental consultants, planners, financial consultants, and lobbyists — to ensure that clients enter the game with the best possible team.

The diverse capabilities of Porzio attorneys assist clients in meeting the challenges of large redevelopment projects. In these major engagements, the well-orchestrated coordination of Porzio’s land use, environmental, governmental affairs, tax-driven financing, and transactional and litigation strengths help us make a difference, whether our clients are large corporate landowners of brownfields and blighted industrial sites, redevelopers, governmental bodies and not-for-profit entities.

Porzio attorneys have helped numerous clients in redevelopment projects in Newark, New Jersey.  The firm’s historic and ongoing experience in this city aids our clients, including DuPont, Avis, NJIT and TEAM Academy Charter School,  in navigating this complicated political and redevelopment environment.

Significant changes in redevelopment laws, particularly the Galenthindecision, have increased the burden for private developers and municipalities trying to encourage redevelopment.  Our experience and analysis allows Porzio to counsel landowners and redevelopers in the creative structuring and substantiation of redevelopment designations and agreements.

Consistent with our commitment to maintaining expert knowledge of all matters affecting our clients, we nurture a culture of personalization and discipline in understanding each important legal development.  We monitor NJDEP regulations, COAH, Transportation District assessments and condemnation case law to understand the manner in which they impact our clients.

Case Studies

  • A publicly traded REIT, developing a brownfields site and anxious to get its proposed warehouse facility approved and profitable, turned to Porzio.  The challenge included: coordinating plan design elements with two municipalities; dealing with permitting complications and municipal financing questions; accessing NJDEP environmental remediation reimbursement programs; resolving ancient and arcane title issues; and resolving a tenancy dispute.  Our quarterbacking role included the coordination of a property swap with the Port Authority on this Portfields project.   The project was further complicated by a residential neighborhood in an adjacent town concerned with traffic issues, and the resultant approvals and completion of a new interchange at a major artery.
  • A Fortune 100 corporation has engaged Porzio to represent it in the disposition of a site in Newark.  We are working towards the client’s goal of maximizing the sales price while minimizing any residual environmental liability.  The site has been designated as "in need of redevelopment" and will accommodate an extensive warehouse facility.  We have initiated litigation challenging the designation of the current redeveloper. 
  • Porzio successfully represented then Newark Mayor-elect Cory Booker on a pro bono basis in setting aside a large number of land sales to individuals favored by a prior administration, resulting in the return of property worth millions of dollars to the City of Newark.
  • We served as the initial counsel to the Morristown Redevelopment Agency.  Our efforts helped to create this body, which has, in a relatively short time, facilitated the fundamental redevelopment of the Town.  The agency’s redevelopment projects have included a Transit Village with hundreds of residential units, retail and office space, and multiple levels of parking decks.
  • Our representation of an existing big-box retail client facilitated the conversion of a former manufacturing site into a multi-tenant center.  Completion of the deal depended upon many "moving parts" — accumulating various adjacent parcels to increase the footprint of the site; extensive and sophisticated negotiations with the county over condemnation for a state and federally funded highway project; oversight of policy language; and thoughtful negotiations of premiums regarding environmental insurance by multiple insurers.
Construction

Contract Preparation and Negotiation

Avoiding or minimizing construction disputes begins with proper drafting of contractual provisions, establishing the rights, obligations and liabilities of the participants.  Our construction practice team has extensive experience in representing the key participants in the construction process: owners (public and private), design professionals (architects and engineers), general contractors, subcontractors and suppliers.  Accordingly, we assist clients in drafting and negotiating contracts, ensuring that the documents cover pertinent contingencies.

School District Construction

We have particular experience in assisting school districts in matters relating to the design and construction of new and renovated school facilities.  Very often, this process includes the management of sensitive environmental issues.  We routinely assist school districts with Solar construction bids, contracts, change orders and construction litigation. 
Click here to view Education Law Practice

Solar Energy and Green Construction

With the incorporation of renewable energy components into existing projects, energy conservation measures, and LEED certification, more and more real estate projects are going green.  In addition to the benefits of going green, there are numerous state and federal programs that provide monetary and technical support for renewable energy and energy conversation projects.  Our familiarity with solar and other forms of renewable energy, and the programs that support them, can help make your project a green one.

Construction Litigation

Construction projects frequently result in disputes that give rise to mediation, arbitration or complex litigation. Clients rely on the extensive litigation experience of our attorneys and paralegals to handle many types of disputes, including payment disputes, allegations of defective design or construction (including professional liability claims), changed or unforeseen conditions, delays or disruptions, loss of productivity, insurance/surety coverage, environmental claims, Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) defense, toxic tort claims, or other similar claims. We strive to achieve early and cost-effective resolution of construction disputes so as to avoid the expense, delay and uncertainty of protracted litigation.

Property Tax Appeals

Valuation and assessment levies on real property can be complicated.  When considering a property tax appeal, it is important to consult with a specialist who understands and can accurately gauge the value of a property. Our tax appeal department represents clients with various types of industrial and commercial properties, including retail, manufacturing, warehouse, office, and research and development facilities.

At Porzio, a team member studies each property to verify the data on which the taxing jurisdiction bases its assessment: Is the square footage properly calculated? What is the physical condition of the structure? Are there any site issues or environmental concerns? Does the surrounding area include factors that affect value? Is the property marketable? Are there any factors that may add a stigma? 

Our tax appeal department builds and presents strong cases, often leading to settlements. If necessary, we prepare for trial by examining the appraisal report and analyzing every element — comparables, deeds, sale encumbrances — that may affect the value. We also talk to plant or facility managers, buyers, sellers and other parties who may shed light on real value to help identify the basis on which the taxing jurisdiction relies.

Community Associations

Managing a condominium association or other community association can be a daunting task.  In some respects, associations are just like corporations — they have all of the issues that plague businesses, but with the additional complications of residential communities.  Numerous issues arise between unit owners, between unit owners and the association, and between the association and external contracted parties.  Whether handling day-to-day disputes, routine interpretations of governing documents or multi-million dollar transition actions, our lawyers have the skills and experience to help boards meet their responsibilities.  Our familiarity with the organization and operation of community associations enables us to efficiently defend associations against claims brought by contractors, unit owners or other allegedly aggrieved parties.  This same familiarity has positioned Porzio to represent parties adverse to community associations.

To view a PDF of our Business Defense Practice brochure, click here.

To view a PDF of our Real Estate brochure, please click here.