Law firm rededicates building to begin new venture

17 Nov 2019 | 12:55

When Mark Gruber looked out an upper-story window of the Sussex County Judicial Center in 1995, he saw an old house with an auction sign, and a figurative lightbulb went on. Wouldn’t it be convenient if he and his law partners could have an office so closely accessible to the courthouse? Gruber purchased the building, and a few renovations later, he and his colleagues cut the ribbon and moved in.

Twenty-four years later, Gruber and partners Chris Colabella and Racquel Hiben (Colabella’s daughter, who is carrying on the family tradition), held another ribbon cutting at their 49 High St. office. The building, which was originally a residence built in 1818 and expanded in 1888, has gotten a complete facelift and is now open for the law firm’s newest endeavor- an office cooperative for area professionals.

“We lost our other partner, Carmen Liuzza, last year,” Gruber said. “After he passed, we felt like we’d lost our heartbeat. And we didn’t need that much space anymore. So we decided to retain one office for ourselves, and remodel the rest so we could rent the space to other professionals who may need it.”

Gruber said the spaces, which vary in size all over the extensive building, are available on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis, and there will also be secretarial services, a kitchen, breakroom, conference rooms, and other office amenities for communal use.

“We want people to come in with just their own laptop and be able to work right away,” he said, noting that the offices would be perfect for other lawyers, accountants, writers, or therapists to use, with the convenience of being close to the courthouse and county buildings, as well as the businesses on Spring Street and shopping centers on Rt. 206.

“These days, people are looking for places for satellite offices,” Gruber said. “Or looking for ways to keep overhead down. We can offer that here.”

Colabella’s wife Debbie chose the colors and furnishings for the project, and the result is a welcoming, bright interior with plenty of natural light. She proudly toured guests around the house before the Nov 12 reception and ribbon-cutting, which featured a brief history of the property delivered by Sussex County Historical Society president and county historian emeritus Wayne McCabe. McCabe explained the use of various techniques used to confirm the construction dates of the structure and said that the family who occupied it at the time of the addition in the late 1880s was likely wealthy enough to employ servants.

“That’s why you’ve got a ‘door to nowhere’ on your landing,” McCabe said. “That would have had another staircase on the other side leading to the third floor or attic servants’ quarters.”

Freeholder Sylvia Petillo and Newton Councilwoman Sandy Diglio also attended the rededication; Diglio was thrilled to see a newspaper clipping of the 1995 ribbon-cutting, which was attended by her late husband Phillip, who was serving as a councilman at that time.

Freeholder Petillo praised the law firm’s progressive thinking in opening an office co-op.

“This isn’t something we’ve seen much of here,” she said, “This is something really innovative, but you’ve managed to protect the architectural elements and historical value of the building. Thank you for being so committed to Sussex County.”

As for the office that the law firm will be keeping for themselves, it’s on the rear side of the building. That’s only fitting, Gruber said.

“I can look out the window right up at the courthouse, and see the window I was looking out all those years ago.”

Office rentals in the building are immediately available, and price varies by office space or suite and includes all utilities and cleaning services. For more information, visit www.chp-newton.com or contact Kim Singer at (973) 398-7500, ext. 221 or ks@gruberlaw-nj.com.