In 2001, there were many glum indicators that might have impeded growth and development. Hudson County was on the doorstep of terrorist attacks that led to the deepening of an already pernicious recession. The loss of thousand of jobs, the removal of several million square feet of the world’s most valuable commercial office space, and the destruction of the PATH rails to downtown Manhattan meant a profound impact on Hudson County development.
Construction in Hudson County has changed, but not stopped. Many ambitious commercial and residential projects broke ground and opened on the river this year.
As for transportation, some options were rendered unusable, so others sprang to action in their stead. Traffic on the new Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system and on NY Waterway Ferries to Manhattan has skyrocketed.
On the waterfront
In Hoboken, the residential/office complex occupying three blocks on the south waterfront is well underway. The buildings are a public/private partnership between the Port Authority and the city of Hoboken, which together sought out developers.
By June of next year, tenants should have moved into the first of two 13-story 550,000 square-foot office buildings on the southernmost block. This complex is known as the Waterfront Corporate Center, and will have the J.P. Wiley & Sons publishing company as its anchor tenant. The structure is already 95 percent leased. The second phase of the project, which is the second building, has begun with SJP Properties of Parsippany paying for the construction costs with its own money. As of yet, that space has not been leased out.
The northernmost block contains a recently opened residential building at 333 River St., which is being built by the Applied Companies in partnership with Starwood Heller, LLC. Applied, one of the major players in the area’s luxury apartment market, is now filling its $100 million E-shaped building, which offers 526 studios and one-, two- and three- bedroom units and over 60,000 square feet of street level retail. Some of those moving in are refugees from lower Manhattan.
Applied also continues construction on the 1,100 Shipyard residential development project on the city’s northern waterfront. On Hoboken’s central waterfront, developers George Vallone and Daniel Gans hope to build townhouses at the site of the old Maxwell House factory, in the face of community opposition from development activists.
Meanwhile, on the Jersey City waterfront, construction and proposals flourish. The loss of more than 12 million square feet of office space in lower Manhattan due to the World Trade Center disaster has left businesses scrambling to build or expand commercial offices across the river in Jersey City’s financial district.
The immediate impact is evident in the increase of commuters entering Jersey City.
For the most part, the companies who had occupied office space in Jersey City have either leased more space or temporarily added more employees to their existing space.
In only a month’s time, Lehman Brothers, a financial services firm, has taken over the lease of brokerage firm Datek at 70 Hudson St. They are using 150,000 square feet and subleasing the rest back to Datek.
Merrill Lynch is reconfiguring its 95 Greene St. offices for a trading floor. That company also won Planning Board approval this year 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 the Harborside Financial Center, where new tenants like Charles Schwab will be moving into an office complex at the site.
And at Newport Center on Jersey City’s northern waterfront, 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. The waterfront walkway that will connect Newport with the Hoboken train terminal is slated to be completed by 2005, but the timetable of the completion of all the buildings is still to be determined. At Newport Office Center VII, a 32-story 1.2 million building will rise, to be host in its entirety to UBS AG-Paine Webber. 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.
On the West New York waterfront, the first phase of a three-phase development plan has been completed. The West New York waterfront includes the Landings and Riverbend communities at Port Imperial, owned by Roseland Properties, and the Jacob’s Ferry and Harbor Place townhouse communities owned by K. Hovnanian of Red Bank.
At full capacity, the property along the waterfront can house as many as 10,000 people in 4,100 units.
The town has already seen an increase of about 1,500 people in the 1,800 units already constructed. Phase two is currently in front of the city’s Planning Board and includes a commercial retail-shopping strip.
In Weehawken, developer Carl Goldberg of Roseland Properties planned to go ahead with the first phase of a two-phase waterfront project called Port Imperial South. When completed 10 years from now, the development will include approximately 1,600 residential units, retail and office space, and a full-service hotel. There will be more than a linear mile of public waterfront access, including an 11-acre park and a 30-foot wide riverfront walkway.
Progress continued this year on the state mandate to link all of the waterfront property from Bayonne to the George Washington Bridge via a public walkway. In Hoboken, two new public stretches of park opened, equaling almost a half-mile of walkway. In West New York the city approved a loan sponsored by the Hudson County Improvement Authority, through the state Local Finance Board, that will allow Roseland Property Co. and Port Imperial, LLC, to complete the construction on the riverfront walkway in both West New York and Weehawken.
With new residents come new facilities. In November there was the official groundbreaking for the proposed new Jersey City Medical Center building. The $200 million project is being funded through tax-exempt bonds issued through the New Jersey Health Care Facilities Financing Authority.
The project received an official green light in December of this year when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s New Jersey office backed the plans with a $172 million loan. The new 359-bed, 340,000 square-foot facility will be located off of Grand Street on Jersey Avenue. Shifting from the existing 22-story structure to seven, the facility will be smaller in height and capacity than the towering complex that has served as the hospital’s home since the Great Depression.
In Secaucus and North Bergen
In Secaucus, speculation about the fate of the property that formerly housed the Aratusa boat-restaurant ended with the formal announcement that a hotel would be constructed on the 3.1-acre site near the northern end of the Meadowlands Parkway. The Extended Stay America will be five stories high with 63,000 square feet and will have a river recreation aspect including a 15-slip marina and a walkway along the river with a public access and launch ramp for boats.
Also in Secaucus, a project by developer Gene Heller calls for 441,000 square feet of retail space in four buildings off Paterson Plank Road near Harmon Meadow Mall. Of this, 150,000 square feet are dedicated to a discount club, believed to be Sam’s Discount Club chain. A Wal-Mart discount store is slated for a building of 170,000 square feet, with 160,000 square feet in other buildings slated for general retail.
Another development company, Hartz Mountain Industries, has proposed a project for property off Harmon Meadow Boulevard that would include two large retail stores. One may be a K-Mart, and the other will be a home improvement center.
In North Bergen a proposed $50 million shopping center tentatively known as The Commons of North Bergen – slated to be built along Tonnelle Avenue at the site of the vacant Crown Cork and Seal factory and a current shopping area – has been put on hold because the developer and the current landowner cannot agree on a sale price for the property.
Also in North Bergen, the Sier-Bath property up for sale, representing a victory for local activists. For years, neighbors of the old gear factory, located at 92nd Street and Kennedy Blvd., have opposed any multi-story, multi-family development on the site, because it would cause massive traffic and parking problems, as well as disrupt an area that features mostly one and two-family homes.
On the North Bergen waterfront, The luxury apartment complex Half Moon Harbour officially opened in September with 176 units, which are being rented at an average of $1,900 per month. In West New York, the first of the three sites that are part of a multi-site, 143-unit affordable housing project in the city is scheduled to have its initial occupants move in by the middle of January.
Since Sept. 11, there has been a fundamental shift in the area’s transportation focus. In December the Port Authority set aside $550 million to restore PATH service from Jersey City and Hoboken to Manhattan’s financial district by 2003.
But without underground service and with an infusion of an estimated 32,000 new daily commuters to Jersey City because of the attacks, a newfound emphasis has been placed on the Hudson-Bergen light rail and the area’s ferry service between the Hudson waterfront and Manhattan.
According to Ken Miller, a spokesman for New Jersey Transit, the light rail saw an increase from 10,000 to 16,000 passengers per day since Sept. 11. Where light rail platforms were once spacious and sparsely populated, droves of newcomers are crowding them during the peak hours of commuting.
That rail system presently runs from Bayonne to Jersey City’s Exchange Place. It will soon grow. By the fall of 2002, New Jersey Transit plans to complete the Hoboken Light Rail terminal, which will link to the Jersey City line.
The number of commuters taking ferries has exploded. NY Waterway spokeswoman Pat Smith said that the ferry company has been transporting more than 50,000 commuters daily since Sept. 11 – an increase of 47 percent over the usual 34,000 daily passengers.
The company, which has ports in Weehawken, Jersey City and Hoboken, has added new routes and vessels.
Another large public transportation project that is well under way is the $450 million Allied Junction/Secaucus Transfer train station/office complex. The station will permit commuters to transfer from the Main, Bergen County, Port Jervis and Pascack Valley lines to the Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast Line, and Midtown Direct service, as well as to Amtrak trains traveling on the Northeast Corridor. Four 40-story buildings, made up of hotel, retail and office space, will rise above the train station in 2003.