Unique and standing tall

For more than a year, Hudson Bergen Light Rail passengers who stop at the Harborside Financial Center have watched a new residential tower rise and take their place as part of the Jersey City skyline.
“We want to be home to those who live here.” – David Barry
At 713 feet, Urby is New Jersey’s tallest residential building and, according to co-developers Ironstate Development and Roseland Residential Trust, “a completely unique rental concept.”The project also partnered with Mack Cali, a prominent property and development company located nearby along the waterfront.
The tower opened its doors at 200 Greene St. to allow people a glimpse inside last week. Although this was the first viewing by the general public, Urby started leasing in March, and according to Ironstate President David Barry, is nearly 50 percent leased already.
“We want to be home to those who live here,” said Barry, who led visitors on a tour of the building, showing off its social spaces, the lobby café and living room, communal kitchen, and outdoor pool terrace with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline.
Designed by the critically acclaimed Dutch architecture and interiors firm Concrete, known for designing citizenM Hotels around the world and W Hotels in London and Switzerland, the first of three eventual towers consists of 762 apartments in a 69-story building. The remaining two towers are expected to start construction early next year.
Erikjan Vermeulen, head of architecture for Concrete, talked about some of the concepts that he incorporated in the design.
“We wanted to make sure that people living inside the building were connected to the city itself,” he said. Many elements, such as the floor numbers in the elevators and the door numbers to each apartment, were pictured numbers from street signs and other things from throughout the local landscape.
Barry said the building has one entrance which leads into a dining room, living room and café area, which are meant to become public meeting areas.
Icons of urban and home-like items from the past such as gas lanterns, suitcases, globes, and even a model of a sailing ship decorate the public area walls, as well as a wall filled with the chart depicting the evolution of coffee in the café area.
The building even has a “Scientist-in-Residence,” Paul Hoffman, CEO of Liberty Science Center.
Although the building reflects some of the urban landscape, it features some extremely contemporary technology.
Using an Urby smart phone app, residents can access programs of communal activities, enjoy keyless entry to their apartments, and use the smart mail and package systems and a variety of local services. Other amenities include shared cars, communal bicycles and filtered water stations that serve as natural meeting points and promote the use of tap water over bottled water.
Apartment locks using smart phone technology allow people into the residential area from the first floor public area.
Rents range from approximately $2,000 to $5,000 a month.

Embracing residential needs in an urban environment

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Barry and his brother, Michael Barry, sought to embrace these new technological possibilities to enhance the urban living experience and to keep up with the changing demands of the modern city dweller.
The idea, Barry said, was to construct an environment that meets the needs of the
contemporary urban resident. Urby, he said, is competitively priced housing with a strong focus on experience and community.
Barry said he was involved with the W Hotel in Hoboken and Chiltern Firehouse in London.
“A lot of what I learned from those project went into this,” Barry.
On the ninth floor, there is a full gym, pool and outdoor deck, and a communal kitchen.
Small, medium, and large apartments are available and priced accordingly, although all have a relatively large feel, partly due to lighting and design. Sliding doors between each room add to the perception of additional space. Each apartment has numerous windows to take advantage of the nearby waterfront views.
Barry noted that each unit has built-in storage space, lighting, a fully equipped kitchen and
bathroom, and pre-installed Wi-Fi.
The communal spaces are staffed and can include anything from an in-residence chef who cooks several days a week and offers cooking lessons in the communal kitchen, to an in-house artist who hosts creative workshops, to a musician who provides music lessons to the residents.

A noble experiment

The concept for the project began in 2009 when Ironstate approached Concrete to develop a better rental-housing product for New York’s densely populated areas. The design team created Small (studio), Medium (one-bedroom) and Large (two-bedroom) units. In order to test functionality, flow and setup, several mock-up apartments were built in a Jersey warehouse. In 2012, Concrete and Ironstate completed a 48-unit building in Jersey City and started renting the apartments out to gauge market response and collect user feedback.
Three apartments have been kept open for testing purposes in order to constantly fine-tune layouts, finishes and fixtures.
In 2011, Concrete began work on an Urby project in Staten Island. The design phase for the Jersey City Urby started in 2012.

An agreement with Airbnb

Jersey City Urby has also engaged in a major collaboration with Airbnb that will make it the first new building development in the tri-state area to take part in the home sharing marketplace’s “Friendly Buildings Program.”
Residents will be allowed to share their apartments on Airbnb by renting out a private room or an entire residence for up to 30 days per year.
Through the Friendly Buildings Program, Jersey City Urby developer Ironstate Development will collect a portion of the money residents earn by hosting on Airbnb. Jersey City Urby, which launched leasing in March, views this program as an additional amenity for tenants who can use the home sharing platform to offset rent while maintaining transparency with the building manager.
“Urby is a brand that continues to redefine the resident experience, and the partnership with Airbnb is a great example of that,” said Barry. “Having the ability to use home-sharing sites has become increasingly important to renters. By aligning with Airbnb, Jersey City Urby is able to give residents this option, as well as simplify the hosting process so they can enjoy their time away from home.”
“Home sharers and landlords don’t have to be at odds,” said Jaja Jackson, director of Multifamily Housing Partnerships for Airbnb. “We are thrilled that Jersey City Urby will be the first building in the region to participate in a revenue sharing program with Airbnb. Hopefully, this agreement will be a model for other property managers and owners to emulate in all corners of the tri-state area.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

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