New Beginnings in NYC Downtown. Huge cranes on Ground Zero site.

Regaining Footing after September 11: A NAIOP Chairman Retrospective

By 2001, when Anne Evans Estabrook chaired the NAIOP Corporate Board of Directors, the industry had recovered from the disastrous early 1990s and was riding the wild wave of tech tenants in the craze.

“We had spent the last half of the decade building up again. By the late ’90s we were in good shape,” Estabrook said in an interview with Market Share about her time as NAIOP’s volunteer leader.

Anne Evans EstabrookDuring those turbulent early years, Estabrook became involved in NAIOP New Jersey as a way to know the other local commercial real estate professionals and grow the family business. Elberon Development Group (which she still chairs) had a solid foothold in space-constrained Northern New Jersey, doing industrial build-to-suits, acquisitions and property management. “We were not big, but we had a niche and we were good in that niche,” Estabrook notes. She credits Frank Visceglia Jr. for mentoring her into the chapter, where she “moved up the chairs,” eventually leading the chapter for two years, from 1993-94.

At NAIOP Corporate, Estabrook rose through the ranks again, serving in a variety of positions before her year as chairman. She recalled how the September 11 terrorist attacks sent ripples through the association. “None of us had ever been alive when an act of international terrorism had occurred on our own soil. It was absolute chaos and very scary; we didn’t know what was going to happen next,” she said.

The fallout caused the association to assess its role in the aftermath. “NAIOP chapters raised a lot of money and sent it to organizations such as the American Red Cross throughout the United States where there were needs,” Estabrook noted. She, NAIOP President and CEO Thomas Bisacquino, and the rest of the Executive Committee debated whether to cancel the associaton’s annual conference, which was scheduled to be held in Chicago in October, just one month after the attacks. They decided to press on.

Taking a commercial flight that soon after the attacks was terrifying to Estabrook, but she and her husband Ken braved it. Estabrook related how various regions of the country were reacting differently to September 11. “The people from the Northeast were shell-shocked; other parts of the country were like, ‘let’s move on.’ We needed their exuberance; they needed to hear from us how solemn things were.” Estabrook estimates that, “It took five years as an industry, especially in the Northeast, to recover.”

Serving as chairman gave Estabrook a broader perspective on other issues, particularly regarding advocacy. Coming from the politically engaged New Jersey Chapter, she was familiar with her local, state and federal representatives. “New Jersey had years of experience lobbying its elected officials, so when I came in as chairman, I wanted to stress [to members] the importance of knowing their legislators on the local, state and federal level, and becoming effective at lobbying…. Instead of complaining about what the laws were, changing them,” she said.

As a result of her leadership at both chapter and North American levels, and “taking New Jersey to Washington and Washington to New Jersey,” Estabrook proudly points to “a growing awareness of our industry, first in New Jersey, then across North America.”

This interview is part of a four-part series recognizing past NAIOP chairmen and their experiences in leading the organization, all in recognition of NAIOP’s 50th anniversary as a predominant association for commercial real estate. Join us at CRE.Converge, October 10-12 in Chicago, to celebrate NAIOP and 50 years of leadership.

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