FOR BRIAN STOLAR, CEO OF Pinnacle Ltd., technology's true impact crystallized six months ago when his company's corporate offices in Millburn, N.J., suffered a two-day e-mail outage during what was supposed to be a routine equipment upgrade in the area. “It was bizarre,” recalls Stolar. “We were cut off from the whole world. No one had any idea what had happened to us.” Almost immediately, phone lines became overloaded with calls from vendors, partners, and even friends and family wondering why no one was responding to their e-mails. When the system finally came back up about 48 hours later, the company found nearly 3,000 e-mail messages waiting to be addressed.
“It clearly hit me that the reason everyone is running 100 mph—getting up as early as we can and staying up as late as we can—is that the amount of information that is being delivered to us today has increased geometrically,” says Stolar. “It's just that simple. Fifteen years ago, if the mail hadn't been delivered for two days it would have had absolutely no impact.”
Through a collaboration with Jim Young, one of the founding partners and co-producer of Realcomm, the world's largest and most recognized conference on technology for the commercial real estate industry, Stolar is applying the elements of Young's “One Bridge” initiative to projects being produced by his development subsidiary, Pinnacle Downtown.
Believing that “technology has finally reached a point where it has become universally valuable,” Stolar is now determined to create living environments that support the way people want and need to live—in his words, it's effectively “urban development and re-development of next-generation villages.”
EASTERN INFLUENCE In 2003, after touring 120 projects across the world in 10 months, Young was impressed by the catapulting technological advances that were evident throughout the Far East, where everything from stadiums and hospitals to apartment buildings and houses are built from scratch with a 21st century “digitalvision.” At the same time, he was disheartened by the fact that the U.S. appeared complacent and was lagging “at least five to seven years behind” in its vision and application.
Flush with inspiration, Young returned to the U.S. determined to help industries transition from the current outdated “almost anachronistic” state of real estate development to incorporate the potential of technology. Ready to apply their intellect to new projects, Young and Realcomm began development of the One Bridge initiative and culled an advisory board of heavy-hitters. Although his experience lies heavily in the commercial real estate market, Young says he is “looking for partners across our industry and others that can help us bridge the gap between technology and real estate.”
It was while scanning the Microsoft Web site in 2003 that Young found a case study report that profiled Pinnacle—then a 15-year-old firm with diverse residential operations in New York and several neighboring states. With an established track record as an adopter of early technology, Young read about how Pinnacle was seeking “a solution that would facilitate universal, reliable access to information held within its Exchange data—whether a user is in the office, traveling regionally, traveling worldwide, at a field site, or at home,” according to the official case study report. By working closely with an Information Technology consulting firm, Silicone-East, Pinnacle's objectives were achieved through a creative combination of cutting-edge hardware and software. (To view the case study report in its entirety, go to www.microsoft.com/resources/casestudies/CaseStudy.asp?CaseStudyID=14792.)
Impressed by Pinnacle's obvious commitment to groundbreaking technology and pledge to incorporate an effective solution, Young contacted Stolar, and immediately a collaborative team was born. “We saw that we had a very complimentary skill set and philosophy to do the same things,” says Young. For Stolar, Young's influence has helped reinforce the niche he's carved out for Pinnacle.
After meeting, the pair outlined a plan to enhance Pinnacle Downtown's urban, mixed-use projects in the construction, development, and approval stages. Of these, the largest is Maxwell Place, a joint venture with Toll Brothers' City Living, where “every unit is about function,” says Stolar. The project includes full tech packages and a Michael Graves–designed high-tech work station/electronics center built into the units. Wireless capabilities are seamless with an abundance of hot spots, and an office center is designed into the project so that live/work residents can increase their productivity with shared office services and a support staff. “As a part of our vision, we are hell-bent on giving people the opportunity to live/work,” says Stolar.