That doesn't mean it's all great news. Some experts anticipate a slowdown in "fringe" areas - those that have seen some revival in the recent flush economic times - like Martin Luther King Drive and Lafayette in Jersey City, but signs are positive that the area will better weather this economic storm. Many point to low vacancy rates and to tenants who sign leases before one spade of dirt is moved at a site.
"We're going to soften as New York softens," admitted Jeff Kaplowitz, Jersey City's Planning Board chairman and a real estate guru. "New York came out of its real estate slump later than everyone else. The difference this time around is we have construction with tenants committed. Last time it was all spec. There were a lot of vacancies."
As for those other areas, "People who are looking to invest in Greenville, people looking to do things in Lafayette," he said, "may be looking to step back. That may be a momentary blip."
Harrison, the next Hoboken?
People have been looking in those areas, to be sure, and still others, like Hudson County Economic Development Corporation's Elizabeth Spinelli, are pointing to forgotten blue collar towns in other parts of Hudson County.
"After Harrison becomes the next Hoboken," she said, "Kearny will become the next Hoboken."
Spinelli, whose objective is to create jobs for low and moderate income workers, may get some quizzical looks for that statement. But she ticks off the attributes of these towns that have become more attractive in recent years: Proximity to public transportation that funnels into major cities, a neighborhood feel and towns ready to do business.
A former factory and ammunition hub, Harrison has openly sought development, said Spinelli. A new hotel should be coming to the area.
Spinelli also trumpets the less-glamorous businesses that provide jobs for moderate-income workers. "I know everyone likes the sexy stuff - the Goldman Sachs," she said, "but that's not the bread and butter."
For instance, Amperite, a Union City specialty manufacturing firm that makes time delay relays, flashers, and timing and industrial controls, offers jobs to the less fortunate, she said.
"They've gone out of their way to offer people who need a second chance," she said, like former Welfare recipients.
The NASDAQ collapse from last year, however, has affected business in the county. A company Spinelli pointed to - Webvan, a warehouse distribution site for online grocery shopping - announced in January that it would halt plans to open a space in North Bergen. The proposal could have brought 900 jobs to the township.
Other online-related ventures, like a proposed "cyber hotel" near the Holland Tunnel in Jersey City, were scrapped as well. Though a similar venture on Dey Street in Jersey City has plans to go forward.
On the waterfront: status quo
Meanwhile, on the waterfront, construction and proposals flourish. Merrill Lynch recently won Planning Board approval for a stunning, 675-foot tower at Exchange Place, where a weedy lot now sits. Slated to begin construction in 2003 and open its doors in 2005, the 1.2 million square foot office hub will be the second tallest building in the state, next to its future neighbor - the 875-foot tall Goldman Sachs building. Construction is continuing at Harborside, where new tenants like Charles Schwab will be moving in.
And at Newport, construction has begun or is continuing on numerous projects. All told, the self-described "Newport World Business Center" will boast 7 million square feet of office space when built out. At Newport Office Center VII, a 32-story 1.2 million will rise, to be host in its entirety to UBS AG-PaineWebber. Occupancy is slated for December 2002.
At Newport Office Centers V and VI construction continues at over 1.2 million square feet of office space, which has been leased to Chase Manhattan Bank.
A new neighborhood in the neighborhood
Plans will finally be moving forward at Liberty Harbor North, a massive commercial and residential undertaking south of Grand Street in Jersey City. Described by owner Peter Mocco as "the Upper East Side meets Greenwich Village," the 70-plus acre site recently had its redevelopment plan amended by the Planning Board. The plan will go before the City Council for approval.
World-renowned architect Andres Duany has designed the new urbanist development, with low-rise brownstones, ground-floor shopping and a neighborhood feel.
"That, in my opinion, will be a development that will be studied in every architectural school in the country," said Jersey City Planning Board chair Kaplowitz. "You have a model neighborhood there." When it's all said and done, it could cost over $1.5 billion, said Mocco's associate, Jeff Zak. With millions of square feet of office space and approximately 8,000 apartments, it stands to be the defining project in the county. Still, the city may be watching Mocco closely, as he has in the past flouted building and planning laws on the site.
The first proposals on the site are expected in the upcoming months.