Building a future Developers teach high school students about their world
by Tom Jennemann
Jun 21, 2005 | 527 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In the past 11 months, Chantel Figueroa, 23, has sold millions of dollars in property for Toll Brothers, a national development firm with major interests in Hoboken. Figueroa comes from a Hoboken family and is a Hoboken High School graduate, which makes her a good role model for this year's graduating seniors.

On Wednesday, Toll Brothers organized a career day in which about 30 Hoboken High School seniors were given a tour of Toll Brothers' Hoboken corporate offices, sales offices and construction sites.

A town in the midst of change

Since most of these students enrolled in the city's public schools, Hoboken has seen a dramatic development boom. The sounds of jack-hammering and saws ring regularly throughout town. It can be intimidating for public school students to see all of this new development. When this much change occurs, there is often fear that longtime families are in jeopardy of being pushed out of their hometown.

Peter Sheridan, a Toll Brothers director of Sales and Marketing, said Wednesday that one reason they are inviting the students to tour their offices and construction sites is to ease those fears and show the students that both old and new Hoboken can grow.

"We believe that it's important that we engage the community and participate in outreach programs that involve area students," Sheridan said.

Hoboken's own

Figueroa is an excellent case study of how old and new Hoboken can grow up together. Figueroa grew up in Hoboken, graduated from Hoboken High School in 1999, and then went to University of South Florida in Tampa.

When she came back home, she was surprised about how much her hometown had changed. "When I came back to Hoboken, it was a completely different place," said Figueroa. But said the city's development boom presented an opportunity and she gladly took advantage. She applied for a sales position at Toll Brothers, and has found a successful career.

"You are the future of Hoboken," said Figueroa, as she addressed the seniors Wednesday. "You may decide to live here and buy a home here, or you may want to work here, but either way, there's a wide array of different options available."

She said that from sales to construction to working in the corporate office, Hoboken's development and real estate market have generated large number of good-paying jobs that are available for those willing to work hard.

In fact, Sheridan said that Toll Brothers will likely take on a couple of interns from Hoboken High School this summer.

Hoboken High School teacher and senor class advisor Lawrence Avitable said that he was excited to take part in a career day at Toll Brothers. He said that for many of Hoboken High's students, many of whom come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, there has been an impression that the "Yuppies" are taking over the town.

But Avitable said that touring their offices and construction sites showed the students that these jobs are achievable. If they work hard, these condos could be their homes one day.

"It's been an invaluable lesson that it's not 'them' and 'us,' it's really just 'us,' " said Avitable, "and this showed them that they can be part of it."

He added that it was especially poignant that the message was coming from a Hoboken High graduate.

"They are able to come here to see a graduate and that has made it all worth it," Avitable said. Hoboken High School senior Di Lu, who will be attending Columbia University next year, said that he enjoyed the opportunity to tour Toll Brothers' office. "Life is all about trying new things," said Lu, who plans to study finance in collage, "and this has been very interesting."

Toll in Hoboken

Toll Brothers is one of the nation's biggest developers. The firm, which has over $2.7 billion in yearly revenues, has recently been aggressively expanding its urban development, partnering with local developers or buying their properties.

They made a major splash in Hoboken about a year an half ago. Toll Brothers has acquired the 525-unit Hudson Tea building and has approvals for the 758-unit mixed-use expansion at the Hoboken Cove on the northern waterfront.

They also bought the 832-unit residential development at the former Maxwell House factory and purchased most of the Manhattan Building Company and its projects, which include the 324-unit Sky Club on Marshall Drive, and the about-to-be-built 230-unit, 700 Grove St. project just over the Jersey City border.

The company has long been known to specialize in move-up, empty nester, active adult and second-home projects in mostly suburban markets. But recently, the company has made a significant investment in urban properties.

In fact, Toll Brothers has established a City Living division, which has its office in Hoboken, to market and sell the Toll Brothers' condos in and around the mile-square city.
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