The boom is back
Residential projects rising again from Bayonne to JC to West New York
by Dean DeChiaro
Reporter staff writer
Mar 23, 2014 | 3645 views | 0 0 comments | 57 57 recommendations | email to a friend | print

At the Hoboken Chamber of Commerce’s annual business awards in November, local real estate agent Michael Klein of Liberty Realty said the area had bounced back pretty quickly after a major weather event.

“After Sandy, everyone really thought we were done for, but we’ve seen a 12 to 15 percent increase in sales this year and that’s great for our town,” he said. “People still want to come here.”

And as it turns out, people don’t want to come only to Hoboken. The entire county is enjoying a renaissance in development, largely because it offers the best of both worlds: the convenience of big cities, but a small-town feel like the suburbs.

In the first quarter of 2014, developers, builders, and real estate agents are expressing excitement about a bevy of residential projects breaking ground around the county.

Jersey City

For many of the past decades, the LeFrak Organization’s massive Newport development project, which transformed the Jersey City waterfront and changed the way builders envisioned Gold Coast projects, has dominated the development discussion in Hudson County. But with LeFrak unveiling the final portion of its project in April, a public park and three final buildings just south of the Hoboken border, the focus shifted further south on the waterfront, where two of the region’s biggest firms are hoping to build New Jersey’s new tallest building.

Called URL (Urban Ready Living) Harborside, the 69-story multi-family residential tower will provide 763 contemporary rental residences along the Jersey City waterfront, just adjacent to the Harborside Financial Center. The project is a joint venture between Mack-Cali Realty Corporation and the Ironstate Development Company, and is meant to become a neighborhood of its own in Jersey City, says Ironstate president David Barry.

“To meet modern housing challenges, we need creative and thoughtful solutions,” Barry said. “URL provides a new paradigm for how people can live and work in the city – in a way that is affordable, sustainable and community oriented.”

Warren at York, one of many new luxury developments slated to open its doors this spring, is the latest in a long line of projects to open in the Paulus Hook waterfront neighborhood just north of Exchange Place. An 11-story, boutique style apartment building, Warren at York (the name is inspired by the building’s cross streets) will offer customers a choice of studios, one, two or three-bedroom spaces ranging in price from $2,100 to $5,000. According to a statement from the builders, BNE Real Estate Group, the building reflects the aesthetics and character of Paulus Hook, a neighborhood known for its historic brownstones and charming corner restaurants and coffee shops.

“Paulus Hook has transformed into one of the most desirable neighborhoods – not just in Jersey City – but along the entire Gold Coast,” said Kristina Hedden, vice president of marketing for BNE Real Estate Group. “Its unique mom-and-pop charm combined with its historic architecture continues to draw residents from near and far.”

Less than a mile inland, on the corner of Jersey Avenue and 18th Street, the 155-unit Cast Iron Lofts opened last February and is being marketed as the first step towards the development of a new neighborhood known as SoHo West. The project is was built by City Home and Gardens, a group that previously constructed several luxury complexes in Hoboken and Jersey City such as The Courtyard at Jefferson and The Cliffs in Jersey City.

Also, just south of Exchange Place, partners Ironstate Development and the Kushner Real Estate Group (of Hoboken and Bridgewater, respectively) have broken ground on an 11-story residential and commercial project that will allow for over 400 apartments on 80 acres in the Liberty Harbor Redevelopment District. The project is close to the Marin Boulevard Hudson-Bergen Light Rail station.

Also in the district is 18 Park, a joint venture between Ironstate and the KRE Group that will open this spring. Built 11 stories high and offering 422 luxury rental units just adjacent to the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, 18 Park will include studios, one, two and three-bedroom apartments, many of which offer sweeping views of the Hudson River, Statue of Liberty and downtown Manhattan.

The development, like many in the area, will be built in the “townhome” style, meaning each unit will have direct access from the street. There is also an abundance of retail space attached to the project, as well as a plan to demolish and rebuild the nearby Boys & Girls Club of Hudson County. As part of the agreement that led to the development being approved, Ironstate and KRE agreed to build the club a new facility – 34,000 square-feet of modern classroom and recreational space that will be independently accessed and includes high-tech classroom spaces, room for arts and music programs and a gymnasium with a floor-to-ceiling glass wall.

In Journal Square, an area where Mayor Steven Fulop wants to spur development through tax abatements, the KRE Group is set to begin work on the massive Journal Square Center Towers. The project consists of three towers ranging from 54 to 70 stories in height that could break ground in early 2014. The group, whose previous Jersey City projects include 225 Grand St. and Grove Pointe on Marin Boulevard, was recently granted a 30-year tax abatement by the city.

Just across the street from the Journal Square PATH station, the Hartz Mountain Corporation finalized plans on a 240 unit, 13-story apartment building, making it nearly a perfect location for people seeking public transportation alternatives.

Paul and Eric Silverman, long credited with revitalizing the Hamilton Park area as attractive to new residents and entrepreneurs alike, broke ground on two new projects in 2013. Already responsible for developing the JC Lofts, Hamilton Square, Majestic Theatre Condominiums, and the Schroeder Lofts, the brothers broke ground on a new seven-story development located on the corner of Grove Street and Montgomery Street. They also broke ground on a building on Ninth Street, also near Hamilton Park, which will house 25 apartment units and the Scandinavian School of Jersey City, a multilingual and multicultural school.

Weehawken

Drivers heading past Weehawken/Hoboken border may have noticed the construction of a 10-story building between the Willow Avenue and Park Avenue bridges.

The 150-unit apartment complex, complete with a pool, gym, and weight room, had taken almost six years to get off the ground. The newest plan provides for all one- and two-bedrooms, and includes four stories of parking. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the Shades neighborhood, Tom and Scott Heagney, the father and son development team spearheading the project, went through a long process of adding disaster mitigation safeguards to the building, including moving all electrical components well above the ground floor.

East of that project, along the waterfront, Roseland has completed work on a 582-unit rental development in Lincoln Harbor. They held a grand opening with Mayor Richard Turner and other elected officials in early March. The project, called the Estuary, consists of three buildings with a collection of well-appointed studio, one, two and three bedroom rental residences ranging from $1,740 to $5,185.

“Hartz has not just been a developer in Weehawken for the past 30 years,” said Turner, “Hartz has been a partner in our efforts to revitalize the waterfront, making Lincoln Harbor a really special place to work, dine, stay and now live with the addition of Estuary. We look forward to welcoming Estuary’s residents to our community.”

Another development group, Lennar Urban, has its sights set on homeowners, rather than renters. The group completed construction on the first phase of its Avenue Collection project at Port Imperial earlier this year, and the first sales are expected to made in July. There are 74 homes in the collection ranging in price from $800,000 to $4 million.

Bayonne

Hudson County’s southernmost point has long been considered the final frontier of development on the Gold Coast, primarily because its industrial history has resulted in a plethora of construction opportunities. In 2014, some of those opportunities are set to become realities, as the city’s government recently approved a massive construction project at the former Military Ocean Terminal.

In late February, the city’s Planning Board unanimously approved the plan for Harbor Station North, a 30-acre tract just east of the 45th Street Hudson Bergen Light Rail station.

Developers Carl Goldberg and Marc Berson expected to construct several hundred residential and commercial units on this large strip of the former Military Ocean Terminal, city officials said.

Josh Sternberg, vice president of real estate for Fidelco Realty Group of Millburn, working on the development, said that the three-phase, 850-unit, roughly $100 million project could eventually mean approximately $1.5 million a year in taxes for the city.

The current phase, however, is for the first 400 units, and a site plan for that portion will be submitted for approval within the next 60 days, according to Sternberg.

He said the goal is to close on the deal with the city by year’s end, at a still undetermined purchase price. If all goes as hoped, ground will be broken for the project in the first quarter of next year. Building would take about 18 months or more, with an eye on a mid-2017 completion date.

Additionally, one of the city’s most recognizable factories is being transformed into a luxury development. Maidenform, the century-old lingerie company which was founded in Bayonne but has since moved its offices, is set to become the new SilkLofts development.

A collection of 85 Brooklyn-style luxury lofts, SilkLofts will be the first project of its kind in Bayonne. Located on Avenue E just 800 feet from the 22nd Street Light Rail Station, the developers will begin negotiating leases in April. Ranging in size, the apartments are unique because they include as much material from the original Maidenform as possible while still sporting modern designs and amenities, giving the entire property a vintage, yet new, feeling.

Hoboken

The mile-square city saw some new development, mainly in the environmentally-friendly sector. The Edge Lofts building, constructed by green developer Larry Bijou, opened early in 2013 on Clinton and Fourteenth streets. The 35-unit building was recently designated as LEED Platinum-certified, the highest honor for environmentally-friendly development.

Bijou also broke ground on Park Place, a $131 million 12-story mixed-use building that will feature 212 apartment homes, 13,000 square feet of retail space, 32,000 square feet of educational space and a six level parking garage at 1415 Park Ave.

Finally, Bijou is kicking off 2014 with a groundbreaking at 900 Monroe St. scheduled for early April. A 135-unit mixed-use high-rise on the corner of Ninth and Monroe streets, with retail and day care spaces at the street level, the project features sustainable and modern features, including 100 bicycles available to residents.

Located steps away from the Ninth Street Light Rail Station, 900 Monroe will help continue the growth of Hoboken’s North West into a sustainable commuter neighborhood.

On the city’s southern border, NJ Transit would like to build 3 million square feet on its property as part of a large development. But the agency has been negotiating for years with City Hall over how big to build (the city wants closer to 2 million square feet).

West New York

A controversial development project along West New York’s Palisades Cliffs was approved last March on Kennedy Boulevard East. Residents clashed with out-of-town developer Capodagli Properties throughout 2012 over a proposed residential high-rise on the Boulevard East site of a long-vacant Exxon gas station, but the project was approved by the town’s Zoning Board in the spring.

The proposed 13-story building is called the Meridia le Boulevard, and will hold 123 rental units and sit on 13,194 square feet of land.

At the end of 2013, the town’s zoning board also approved development that caused controversy, called the Felice. Requiring variances similar to those awarded to the Meridia (such as for number of floors and lack of distance from nearby buildings), the project was delayed for more than a year due to resident protests. The 35-unit building will be constructed on the corner of 60th Street and Boulevard East.

Elsewhere in West New York, Mayor Felix Roque and developer Dean Mon cut the ribbon in March on two new apartment complexes, the Washington and the Jefferson, that together make up Phase I of the Jaclyn Heights affordable housing building project on Washington Street and 58th Street.

Union City

In densely populated Union City, there were no major development projects this year, but a group of Hudson County veterans found a home there. They recently moved into a new 18-unit building specifically for those who have served in the armed forces.

Located on 40th Street in Union City, the facility was established on Hudson County residents who served in the armed forces, have a permanent disability, and are either homeless or nearly homeless. It was built at a cost of $4.7 million in a partnership between private and government agencies.

“Homes for Heroes” is funded by $1.3 million in grants from state and federal entities. A local not-for-profit sponsor, the North Hudson Community Action Corporation (NHCAC), will contribute job training, social work, and counseling for the residents.

Al Sullivan, Joe Passantino, E. Assata Wright, and Art Schwartz contributed to this report.

Dean DeChiaro may be reached at deand@hudsonreporter.com

SIDEBARS

New parks in most towns

As developers have rushed to grab up the last bits of undeveloped land around Hudson County, municipalities focused on how to preserve open and recreational space for the community.

In Hoboken, the city government cut the ribbon on a new uptown park, 1600 Park. This park, at the city’s border with Weehawken, currently consists of an athletic field, a dog run, and a raised earth hill, or viewing mound, that will provide a good vantage point for sports matches.

The field, which has been planned since 2006 when the city purchased the land, will provide space for soccer, baseball, and lacrosse, as well as just about any other sport imaginable, including hurling, a popular Irish sport enjoyed by many Hobokenites.

Zimmer and company also managed to take ownership of a small 1-acre parking lot on the corner of Jackson Street between Paterson Avenue and Observer Highway. The new southwest park could break ground this year.

In West New York, West New York Mayor Felix Roque reopened two public parks last May and June that had undergone extensive renovations using federal funding. Both parks – Dewey and Fillmore Park – got awards from the New Jersey Society of Municipal Engineers.

Additional plans are under way to improve the municipal pool, Miller Park, and Washington Park in 2014.

In Union City, a plan that began as controversial got off the ground in the summer after Mayor Brian Stack announced plans to redo his city’s entire section of Washington Park (the park borders Jersey City, and parts are run by that municipality as well as the county). Some residents initially expressed concerns over the number of existing trees that would be cut down in order to expand the city’s Little League field to make it more compatible for other sports, but Stack argued that beautifying the city’s gateway and providing more space for youngsters was more important.

And in Secaucus, one of the city’s oldest parks received a full makeover, courtesy of a $1.6 million grant from the county’s Open Space fund. Buchmuller Park, at the center of the town, saw improvements to its lighting and landscaping, as well as the installation of new athletic turf on its baseball field, new bocce courts, and a new children’s playground.

North Bergen and Guttenberg announced a joint plan in 2013 for a waterfront park on River Road shared by both towns, which is funded partially through the county’s Open Space Trust Fund. The majority of the money will come from two New Jersey Green Acres Grants.

Transportation updates: Biking, walking and a new Light Rail station?

Hudson County is known for numerous avenues of public transportation – commuter trains, light rail trains, the PATH train, the ferries, and buses. While 2012 was marked by significant expansions of public transportation infrastructure, this past year – 2013 – saw several advances to alternative transportation, including walking and cycling.

Elected officials in Jersey City, Hoboken, and Weehawken announced in December that they had entered into a regional bike sharing program that will allow residents and tourists alike to rent one of 650 bikes available up and down the Gold Coast.

Under the tri-municipality plan, hundreds of bikes will be available at strategic locations in all three cities. In Jersey City, a minimum of 300 bikes will be installed in 30 locations throughout the city. In Hoboken, there will be a minimum of 250 bikes and a minimum of 100 bikes in Weehawken.

The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail also could be up for some expansions. The New York Times reported in February that NJ Transit and the Rockefeller Group, a developer, had come to a secret agreement to build a new station at 16th Street near the city’s border with Weehawken. However, it may be contingent upon Rockefeller building a controversial commercial tower.

Also regarding the light rail, a group of mayors testified in Trenton in March that they’d like to see the system live up to its geographically inspired name – the train runs through much of Hudson County, but none of Bergen County. Local mayors and legislators from Bergen County told the state Senate Transportation Committee that they’re hoping to see the route extend to a stop at Englewood Hospital, whose CEO is willing to share some parking garage space with a new station.

And for the first time since Hurricane Sandy, pedestrians found last year that they could now reach Liberty State Park from downtown Jersey City in April when it was announced that a footbridge passing over the Morris Canal – which was destroyed by last year’s storm – was once again open.

Meanwhile, another Hudson County border crossing was improved last year with the unveiling of a newly constructed “100 Steps,” a 21st century version of a staircase built in the 1920s that was removed from the Palisades Cliffs in the 1990s after it had become dangerously decrepit.

In November, the new 100 Steps were opened for pedestrian use, allowing neighbors in the Jersey City Heights and western Hoboken easier access to one another.

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