While the nation still suffers from a slow economy, a number of luxury residential developments are rising from North Bergen to Jersey City, likely fueled by the proximity to Manhattan and to several forms of public transportation.
“What happens in Hudson County is a direct and immediate correlation to what happens in Manhattan, both good and bad,” said Debra Tantleff, vice president of development for Roseland Properties, which opened the Monaco – a 523-unit apartment complex – in Jersey City in April. “And as soon as you start to see the market in Manhattan do a little bit better, you immediately feel the effects in Hudson County.”
In North Bergen, Avalon Bay broke ground in June. The community, located near Kennedy Blvd. and 56th Street, will consist of 164 studio, one-, and two-bedroom apartments, and an underground garage. The units will be a short walk from the Bergenline light rail station. AvalonBay also has 15 other luxury apartment developments in the state.
‘We ended up believing strongly in what an urban lifestyle can give somebody.’ – Daniel Gans
Jersey City is seeing several areas of construction and future construction, including LeFrak expanding Newport and the ongoing Van Leer Place development (438 residential units at the site of a former chocolate factory near the Jersey City/Hoboken border).
Bucking the trend
Daniel Gans is a principal with Hoboken Brownstone Co., which is building Van Leer Place.
Gans got into the real estate business with partner George Vallone 30 years ago, he said the pair considered doing projects “all over” the tri-state region, including several suburban communities. But in the end, they chose Hudson County.
“We ended up believing strongly in what an urban lifestyle can give somebody and believing that urban living was going to be the trend,” Gans said. “We believed that the urban flight of the ’60s and ’70s wasn’t going to continue. We thought that trend was going to change and people were going to enjoy living in cities again.”
Noting that most of the local new development is energy efficient and offers residents an opportunity to live a car-free sustainable lifestyle, Gans added that the Hudson County gold coast offers “a lifestyle that many people want.”
This lifestyle, he stated, is beginning to appeal to a wider demographic of people, including recent retirees.
When Gans and Vallone came to the area, the Newport community, situated around the Pavonia-Newport PATH Station, hadn’t even been built yet. Since then, Newport has matured into a bustling cosmopolitan family-oriented community for young professionals.
“In Newport, we have a terrific location,” said Ed Cortese, senior vice president with the LeFrak Organization, which developed most of the Newport section of Jersey City. “We’re sitting on top of a train station. The Pavonia-Newport PATH Station is right on our property. We’re six minutes away from Manhattan, with rents considerably less than New York. So when you’re looking for a one bedroom apartment in New York, and they’re asking for $3,500, and you can get [something comparable or better] at Newport for $1,700, you’re going to go there and commute six minutes to work.”
The Newport community is a 10-minute walk from the Hoboken Rail Terminal as well, which links commuters to NJ Transit trains.
Access to other amenities – such as the waterfront walkway that connects Hoboken and Jersey City, and parks like Braddock Park in North Bergen and Jersey City’s Liberty State Park – are community elements that add value to Hudson County real estate.
“It’s a cliché,” Cortese said, “but we’ve got the location. We’ve got amenities. We’ve got rents that are affordable for luxurious living. Hudson County offers a complete package…Look at Hoboken, it’s another Greenwich Village.”
Cortese said LeFrak is drafting further plans for future developments in Jersey City, including a project that sits on the Jersey City-Hoboken border.
“The location of our properties within Hudson County – between Jersey City, Weehawken, and West New York – and the proximity to mass transportation, and specifically having that waterfront lifestyle experience, really caters to a certain segment of the market,” said Tantleff.
Within the first six weeks after the Monaco opened in April, Roseland was able to lease 200 of its 523 apartments. At present, she estimated the project is about 65 to 70 percent leased “at some of the highest rents that the Jersey City market has ever seen.”
Vacancy rates are similarly low at LeFrak’s nearby Newport projects – a fact that only fuels further high rise luxury development in Hudson County, even at a time when developers note that financing for projects is more difficult to get than five years ago.
“I think you see some projects taking longer to come on-line right now because they are taking longer to get going at the outset,” said Gans. “But you don’t see any developers pulling the plug on planned projects altogether.”
E-mail E. Assata Wright at email@example.com.