In the neighboring city of Hoboken, according to Robert Greer, chief financial officer of Manhattan Building Co., “There was a saying. You can’t build west of -----, or you can’t build west of -----. But Sandy [Weiss, his business partner], kept going west of that street.”
The thinking changed, he said, when old industrial areas were transformed with residential homes into new communities.
Greer and developer Sanford “Sandy” Weiss now hope to do for Jersey City what Weiss did in Hoboken dating back to the 1990s.
Manhattan Building Co., which has already finished the first of several developments along Jersey Avenue near 17th and 18th streets, last week broke ground on Cast Iron Lofts II, a 232-unit luxury rental development that should be completed in approximately 22 months.
The project is being built with $250 million in what Greer described as “private financing” and will create a total of 800 to 1,000 construction and permanent jobs.
Manhattan Building is also in talks with the city to develop another nearby site that could be home to a third development, a two-tower, 400-unit project that would complete the Cast Iron community.
Given its proximity to Hoboken, Weiss has taken to calling the area SoHo West, as in “south of Hoboken,” an obvious nod to the better known SoHo and Soho districts in New York City and London, respectively.
Until Weiss and Greer built Cast Iron Lofts I, the area was primarily known as an industrial zone, home to train tracks and several old warehouses.
“This is an area we’re trying to build up,” Greer told the Reporter during the groundbreaking. “Five or 10 years from now there are going to be thousands of apartments. In five or 10 years, you won’t be able to recognize this neighborhood.”
The completion of what was never started
Earlier this year, the developers completed Cast Iron Lofts I, which began accepting its first tenants in February. Greer said that building is now 86 percent occupied with only 17 units remaining as of last week.
Ron Russell, chief architect and planner for Urban Architects, the company that is working with Weiss and Greer on the Cast Iron project, said the development isn’t so much creating a neighborhood as completing one that was once planned but never finished.
“There are old maps from 1873 that show all these city blocks laid out with [housing] lots, and this area was supposed to built all the way to Hoboken,” Russell said. “They built a number of row houses along Jersey Avenue up to 13th Street. Then, when the Holland Tunnel was constructed, all that was torn down. So, they never actually built this far.”
In time, the area became home to several industrial warehouses, a legacy that continues to this day with several industrial spaces nearby, including the 1.3 million square foot Lackawanna Center at 629 Grove St.
That legacy has made it difficult to attract residential developers to the area who have considered the neighborhood to be too populated with warehouses to take a risk on housing.
But with Manhattan Building’s Cast Iron project, the expectation is that the development will serve as an anchor and attract others who passed on the neighborhood in the past.
“This developer has been a pioneer, building early in neighborhoods that haven’t had a lot of investment. This building right here was the first one that somebody built on this side of 14th Street,” Mayor Steven Fulop said, referring to Weiss and Cast Iron Lofts I. “He’s done the Sky Club in Hoboken. He did the Sugar House in (Jersey City’s) Paulus Hook, and that kind of changed the whole area there…In this particular block, you’re going to have 360 units when this is all built out. And this will be the catalyst to more investment. This is one of the next areas to really pop.”
The six-story, 65-unit Sugar House development at 174 Washington St. was completed in 2001. The Morris Canal property was redeveloped from an old sugar warehouse.
Greer said that he and Weiss have developed roughly eight to 10 projects in Jersey City and Hoboken over the last decade.
The mayor added that since the completion of Cast Iron Lofts I, other developers have expressed an interest in doing projects in the vicinity.
Next phase to continue where Cast Iron Lofts I left off
The 21-story, 155-unit Cast Iron Lofts I project features studios, one bedroom units, and two bedroom apartments, some of which overlook the Manhattan skyline.
Units feature hardwood floors, large windows, in-unit washers and dryers, a 24-hour fitness center, concierge service, rooftop amenities such as a dog run and grilling facilities, a PATH shuttle, and on-site parking.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at email@example.com.