Nine years ago, Carl Goldberg, the president of Roseland Properties, saw the potential of the land that was owned by long-time Weehawken resident Arthur Imperatore and his ARCORP holdings, and decided that the property could be developed in a grand scale, involving luxury housing, commercial space and retail possibilities.
"I knew it was a desirable area," Goldberg said. "I always had faith that it could happen."
But there were countless trips in front of the Weehawken Planning Board and several years of litigation from opponents to the project. It was an endless battle, from boardroom to courtroom.
"But I always knew Weehawken had immense potential," Goldberg said. "I certainly had some moments of anxiety along the way, but I was always optimistic."
Last Tuesday, Goldberg's optimism paid off when the ribbon was cut on the first finished brownstone, purchased by ADT executive Rob Hynds.
"I've been following this project since it was a patch of mud and I wanted to be one of the first to own here," said Hynds, whose home was proudly displayed as part of the ribbon-cutting ceremony. "How can you beat this? It's a great quality of life and I have the best of all worlds. It's an awesome construction, with great space and a great view. Who would want more?"
Hynds' four-story brownstone, complete with internal elevator and majestic hardwood and marble floors, a full service kitchen and palatial winding staircases, was personally designed by him.
"I designed the whole thing and wanted it just right," Hynds said. "That's the way it turned out."
Of the 42 brownstones that have either been built or under construction, 36 have been sold anywhere in the price range of $900,000 to $2 million each. There are four different types of homes, ranging in size from 2,900 to 4,600 square feet.
These prices are much higher than what was originally anticipated when Goldberg first presented the project to the Weehawken Planning Board nine years ago. In fact, the homes have more than tripled in value from their initially anticipated selling price.
"I never thought we would achieve the numbers we've been getting," Goldberg said. "The real estate market spoke volumes. It means additional ratable opportunities for the community. But the quality of the homes speaks for themselves. People have responded well to the location and the market is very strong right now."
Goldberg wanted to keep six of the homes on the market until the project was completed with all the amenities, meaning that maybe the price tag on the remaining six could increase.
"It shows real potential," Goldberg said.
Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, who has meticulously sweated over every step of this development process, was also on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"This is just one segment of the entire process," Turner said. "It's either the culmination of a nine-year process or the beginning of an even longer process. This is completion of Phase One of the project, one part of many parts. But it's the first construction and the first new ratable on the waterfront in over a decade [since the addition to the Sheraton Suites Hotel]."
Turner said that the increase of real estate value can only enhance the entire township.
"We knew that the number would go up from what was originally anticipated, but we never knew how much," Turner said. "The value of waterfront property increases every year. While this is a very expensive neighborhood with the brownstones, there will eventually be condos and rental units, assisted living and affordable housing, so the entire development will mirror upper Weehawken. But this is the first neighborhood of what will be several."
The second phase of Roseland's Port Imperial South project was drastically cut, from the initial 2,200 units to approximately 1,643 currently planned. Nearly 150 of those units will be designated as affordable housing and another 270 will be designated as assisted living for senior citizens. The office structure was limited to 450,000 to 500,000 square feet, which is significantly less than the original plan.
The entire project will include a hotel, a shopping center, and an assisted living center. It is expected to take more than 10 years to complete.
While the first phase was vehemently opposed in the courts by a local group known as the Friends of the Weehawken Waterfront, Goldberg doesn't anticipate any lengthy legal battles for the remainder of the project.
"This first phase becomes a catalyst for the remainder of the project," Goldberg said. "The quality of the finished product raises the bar for us to make the remainder of the project even better. We want to create a quality of life that attracts people to Weehawken. This has a tremendous impact on the second phase and we anticipate bringing another spectacular neighborhood to Weehawken. We've had tremendous support so far. I think before the end of the year, we'll begin construction on the second phase. I believe the residents will be very supportive and I don't anticipate the same level of opposition we received the first time."
Hynds can't wait to get into his new home. "It's really a dream come true," Hynds said. "I'm absolutely thrilled with the way it turned out."