Colleen Donovan ’87 has been instrumental in helping her clients to pursue green development. Named to “The Best Lawyers in America” in 2009, Donovan is a partner at Day Pitney, one of New Jersey’s most prestigious law firms.
Donovan first developed an interest in real estate law while a law student. “I really liked the courses in real estate I took at Brooklyn Law,” she said. “I immediately realized that I wanted to be a transactional attorney rather than a litigator.” Indeed, she has been a real estate lawyer ever since graduating, when she joined the firm of Pitney Harding in 1987 as a first year associate. In 1995, she became a partner at Pitney Harding, which merged with Day, Berry & Howard in 2007 to become Day Pitney.
At Day Pitney, she is the Commercial Real Estate and Development Transactions practice group leader, and she routinely represents clients on the sale, acquisition, and leasing of real estate, and the related financing of commercial and industrial properties. Donovan is often called upon to advise lenders with respect to compliance obligations under New Jersey’s Industrial Site Recovery Act (ISRA). But she also counsels clients on all environmental aspects of the purchase and disposition of real property and businesses, including environmental due diligence, Superfund, and other liability concerns, and permitting. She frequently works with environmental consultants, overseeing the preparation of remedial investigations and remedial action workplans, and assists a wide variety of clients with environmental compliance and permitting issues before state agencies.
For example, she is currently representing The Dial Corporation in connection with ISRA-mandated site investigation and remediation activities, including attention to compliance requirements, supervision of consultants, and remedial strategies. She also represented a lender as environmental counsel in a $475 million loan transaction involving the development of a cogeneration facility in New Jersey.
Her practice has also grown to include green leasing. She was recently sought out by The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to supporting and nurturing educational, cultural, social, and environmental values, to negotiate a green lease for their new headquarters.
The Foundation wasn’t as concerned with the usual mundane issues of lease negotiation—cleaning schedules, parking, etc.—as they were with ensuring that their new downtown Morristown office building would serve as a beacon of green development for the community, encouraging others to build and live green. Working with architects and an environmental consultant, Donovan drafted a lease that incorporated a number of new requirements including the construction of geothermal wells (these wells live 500-feet below street level and gather heat from the earth to help heat the building), a state of the art Photovoltaic system (solar energy window panels), an interior “living wall” (a wall covered in greenery which serves as a stress reducer, bio-filter, humidifier, and cooling agent), and a green roof which provides heating insulation and shelter for biodiversity with its grass, plants, flowers, trees, and picnic tables for peaceful lunching outdoors. A final provision of the lease was a requirement that the building be open for tours to the public for education. The building is expected to receive a LEED platinum rating.
“The building is stocked with these cutting-edge concepts in green technology,” said Donovan. “I think these sorts of leases are going to become more commonplace, and I am hoping that more and more clients will be interested in building green,” said Donovan. “There is an initial outlay of additional money that many clients are reluctant to spend, but the idea is that they will recoup this initial investment in a short time.”