‘Redevelopment’ was the word in ’07 Major projects, renovations continue despite national real estate downturn

As housing markets continue to worsen across the country, with the issuance of building permits reaching a nationwide 14-year-low this fall, Hudson County continues to defy the trend, with several residential developments coming to fruition in 2007.

Many of these developments are rising in “redevelopment” areas that were once home to factories, but are now being cleaned up and rezoned by cities as part of designated “redevelopment” areas. In addition, historic buildings are being transformed into residential properties in a process known as “adaptive reuse” that keeps the existing structures.

With a location near public transportation to Manhattan, even properties inland in Hudson County are becoming more and more desirable.

Nowhere is this surge felt more than in Jersey City, where places both on and off the coveted waterfront are experiencing a rebirth.

Jersey City residential

One major residential development in Jersey City that is not on the waterfront is the $350 million condominium complex known as The Beacon.

The complex is being built at the site of the former Jersey City Medical Center on Baldwin Avenue and Montgomery Street, near the city’s downtown district. When completed around 2010, the project will include 1,200 units spread over 10 buildings. The Jersey City Medical Center itself moved from that location in 2004 to new state-of-the-art digs on Grand Street, near a light rail stop.

According to Beacon developer George Filopoulos, approximately 90 percent of the first 315 units completed have been sold, with one penthouse alone selling for $2.3 million.

In addition to the residential units, the complex, when complete, will contain approximately 80,000 square feet of retail space.

Another former hospital that is being converted into an upscale condominium is the St. Francis Hospital site, where developers Eric and Paul Silverman are constructing a 300-unit residential complex called Hamilton Square. Although the development has not yet been completed, 126 units, ranging from studios to three-bedrooms, went on sale in September, with prices ranging from $300,000 to $1.6 million. The entire project, which will also include ground floor retail wrapping around the base of the building and a health club/pool, is expected to be completed in 2010 as well.

One project that has drawn a lot of attention in Jersey City and the surrounding area is the Trump Plaza, a $415 million condominium project that first broke ground in September of 2005. The project consists of two massive towers.

The first tower will be 55 stories high and contain 445 condo units, while the second will be 50 stories high and consist of 417 units.

The first tower, which is not yet completed, is already 80 percent sold, with residents expected to move in by April of 2008. The second tower is to be built after the first tower is occupied.

Make no mistake, though – there were rentals being built in addition to condos in 2007. Nationwide, a turn in the home-sales market has encouraged more rentals.

One new development offering rental properties is 50 Columbus, a 950-unit housing complex located at Columbus Drive and Warren Street. The downtown Jersey City complex, which was developed through a partnership between the Hoboken-based Applied Development Company and the Jersey City-based Panepinto Properties, consists of a 35-story tower which includes townhouses and a multi-level garage as well as 25,000 square feet of ground floor retail. As of late this year, the development has already leased out 70 percent of the 400 units already completed.

Jersey City commercial

In additional to residential, Jersey City also saw its share of commercial properties come into being over the past year.

A Home Depot was completed near the entrance to the Holland Tunnel. The five-story building, which is situated on a 3.3 acre parcel of land on 12th Street between Marin Blvd. and Grove Street, concluded construction this past fall.

In September of 2007, the Jersey City Planning Board approved Goldman Sachs’ proposal to build a 30-story office building at 50 Hudson St., which means the financial giant will own two massive structures within a few hundred feet of each other, since they currently own an office building at 30 Hudson St., which is currently the tallest office building in the state.

The new building will be approximately 500 feet high. According to a Goldman Sachs spokesman, ground at the site has not yet been broken. They could not estimate a completion date.

Hoboken

Along Hoboken’s northern waterfront, Toll Brothers continues to dominate the area near the city’s border with Weehawken.

At the town’s formerly industrial northern end, a slew of large, boxy factories are slowly being converted to condominiums. They will soon join the already converted 525-unit “Tea Building” at 1500 Washington St., a former Lipton Tea factory. That waterfront property was converted approximately five years ago, and now is home to notables including Gov. Jon Corzine and Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

Just west of the “Tea Building,” the neighboring buildings are still being developed. Toll Brothers completed the first phase of its 10-story Harborside Lofts building at 1500 Garden St. this past November, with move-ins beginning this month. Of the 116 units completed to date, over 80 percent are already sold, according to Axiom Communications representative Jillian Marano.

Once complete, the condo complex will consist of 748 residential units as well as a 1,250-car garage.

Further down the waterfront, Toll Brothers’ third major development is an upscale complex in place of the sprawling former Maxwell House coffee factory. Located in the area of 11th and Sinatra Drive, the first of “Maxwell Place’s” four separate buildings was completed this past September, yielding 169 condos of which 97 percent are sold.

By 2010, all four Maxwell Place buildings are expected to be completed, adding a total of 832 units to Hoboken waterfront.

On the southern waterfront, the city’s three-block South Waterfront Project has already replaced a former port area. The two piers are being used for park space, and the Applied Development Company is continuing construction on the much-anticipated W Hotel, to add to their already built condo complex and office building nearby.

The 25-story W Hotel will contain 225 rooms once complete, as well as an 11,000-square-foot ballroom. The hotel is expected to open in late 2008 and will be operated by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

There are also many developments inland and far west, even near the public housing projects.

A four-story, 21-unit condominium known as Ariel Square was completed this month at the corner of Fifth and Jackson streets. Only a few hundred feet away is a four and five story condominium known as the Emcee, which consists of 12 units and will be completed in March of 2008.

Both buildings were constructed by the New York City-based TreeTop Development. Adam Mermelstein, a principal of TreeTop, said in a press release that nearly 50 percent of the combined 33 units between both residencies had been sold as of this past week.

One block away on a much larger scale, locally-based Remi Companies has transformed what once was the city’s towing yard into a 128-unit condominium called the Velocity. Located at Sixth and Jackson, the four-story residential complex was completed last June.

Remi CEO Eric A. Kaiser said the development initially began as condominiums, but since August of this year, it changed into a rental facility after observing that “sales were sliding.” Most of the units rent for between $2,800 and $3,100.

The city also saw residents and politicians arguing over proposed parameters for several redevelopment zones in formerly industrial areas. After months of debating plans for the city’s southernmost border, the City Council asked the Planning Board to incorporate new features of a revised “Southwest Redevelopment Plan.” The City Council has not formerly adopted the new plan. After it does, the next step is to seek out developers who will conform to the guidelines.

The city also has other redevelopment regions in the works.

With development occurring in every corner, park activists made sure that the remaining undeveloped land should stay that way.

The Maxwell Place Waterfront Park, a 5-acre community amenity from Toll Brothers, opened this past November.

The city expects two other parks to be completed by the late spring of 2008, which are 1600 Park and 1500 Park, located near the Hoboken-Weehawken border and totaling an additional 4 acres of space.

Weehawken

Moving further north on the waterfront, development continues on the city’s major development in progress.

“Port Imperial South,” which is across the border from “Port Imperial North” in neighboring West New York, continues to be developed by Roseland Properties.

Right now Roseland is building a section called Henley on the Hudson, a 174-unit residential complex that owners are expected to occupy by the end of this year. The luxury condominiums, of which Lennar Urban was also a developing interest, are 78 duplexes beginning in the high-$700,000 area, as well as 16 penthouses and waterfront townhouses that sell for around $3 million.

As part of the nearly two-mile long luxury development of Port Imperial, Roseland Properties completed a 14-acre recreational park earlier this year that includes a waterfront walkway, as well as tennis courts and soccer and softball fields.

In October of 2007, Roseland was approved to build its much anticipated Wyndham Hotel. The nine-story, 294 room luxury hotel, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2010, will be directly adjacent to the New York Waterway Terminal. One waterfront property that saw an addition this year was Riva Pointe, an upscale bank of condominiums that juts out into the Hudson River on a pier.

This past year saw 90 additional units added to the existing 155, according to Riva Pointe Development representative John Pearson. Pearson said that approximately 90 percent of the new units are already sold. On a much smaller scale, Weehawken’s Town Hall was made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, so that now, people in wheelchairs can access the office. There was also an overhaul of the police headquarters in the same building.

West New York

North of Weehawken on the waterfront is West New York, a small, densely populated city. This past year, ground was broken on a number of future residential projects, including two that were designated as affordable housing.

A condo complex known as 52nd Street Homes, located at 562 52nd St., consists of 70 residential units with income limits. The building is being constructed by D. R. Mon Group and is expected to be completed by winter of 2008.

The second development is the Kennedy Tower II, located at 438 62nd St. and is an extension of the West New York Housing Authority. According to the Housing Authority of West New York’s Executive Director Robert DiVincent, the project is intended for senior citizens and will consist of some 70 units, of which 20 percent will be designated specifically to those who are deemed to be “frail and elderly,” who will receive units that contain features such as roll-in showers, that allow wheelchair bound individuals easy access, as well as hand-bars throughout the apartments.

In order to encourage further new developments in West New York, the administration implemented a new 5-year abatement program this past November, which allows developers to pay a certain annual percentage to the city instead of being subject to regular fluctuating city, county, and school taxes. In the new plan, owners of newly developed residential and commercial property will pay in increments of 20 percent of conventional taxes in the first year, 40 percent the second year, 60 percent the third year, 80 percent fourth year and 100 percent the final year, according to Business Administrator Nick Goldsack. In addition, the abatement also applies to “substantial rehabilitation of existing properties” over $25,000.

Union City

Inland of West New York, and sharing the predominantly Latino population, is Union City. According to Union City Construction Code Official Martin Martinetti, the landlocked city has seen 700 new units added between 2002 and 2007.

Martinetti estimated about 150 new residential units were completed in 2007, while he expects over 500 more units to be created by the end of 2008.

The majority of the developments completed in 2007 in the densely populated city were smaller 20- to 40-unit buildings. One example is the Spazio, a six-story, 36-unit condominium development at 3710 Hudson Ave. which has already sold 64 percent of its one- and two-bedroom condos.

Another condominium completed in early 2007 in Union City was the Union Grande, a five-story, 27-unit building at 1716 New York Ave. Only two units remain available, including a $600,000 penthouse.

On a much larger scale, Hudson 3312 LLC is constructing a 15-story, 151-unit building at 3312 Hudson Ave. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2008.

North Bergen

Development of retail areas continued along North Bergen’s Tonnelle Avenue in 2007, as residents welcomed new stores on the increasingly popular thoroughfare, and prepare for a new hotel.

Vornado Realty Trust’s $90 million shopping center venture on Tonnelle Avenue, at the site of the old township municipal complex between 85th and 91st streets, continued construction throughout 2007. The 415,000-square-foot shopping center is expected to be completed by 2009 and will include several major retailers such as BJ’s Wholesale Club, Staples, and possibly even a Wal-Mart “supercenter” store.

On the residential front, at least two major developments are changing the landscape along River Road.

The first is Watermark on the Hudson, located at 8100 River Road with a completion date scheduled for March of 2008. The 12-story, 206-unit condominium features an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, 10,000-square-foot health club and billiards room, with a two-story garage attached to the building. Approximately 85 percent of the condos have already been sold.

The other luxury condominium on River Road is Views at Hudson Pointe, a four-story, 146-unit complex built by K. Hovnanian. Much like the Watermark, amenities include an outdoor pool, fitness center, theatre room, and two rooftop gardens as well as parking for residents. Some 37 units are still available, ranging in price from the mid-$500,000 range to about $1.5 million.

Guttenberg

The small town of Guttenberg borders North Bergen and West New York with a population of approximately 12,000 residents, many of whom live in the towering Galaxy condo complex with a view of the river.

Despite its small size, the town will also be seeing its small share of redevelopment in the near future on the 400 block of 68th Street.

The project, which is being run by Echevarria Estates, will include 36 units in a four-story luxury housing building. The site is currently conducting preliminary demolition, with construction predicted for the new year.

Secaucus

Secaucus is the most suburban of Hudson County’s towns. Once home to pig farms, this town on the Hackensack River now has its own major train station (Secaucus Transfer Station) and several massive developments under way.

The current population stands at approximately 15,000 residents, but the town is expecting to see 5,000 to 6,000 new residents coming as a result of the 237-acre, Secaucus Transit Village currently being built. The development, which is centered around the town’s train station, should have the first few hundred units available by this summer with construction continuing for the next 10 to 15 years, according to Fraternity Meadows President David Halpern, who is developing the site.

The transit village will be separated into four zones: the Riverfront Landing, Station Square, Transition, and Passive Recreation zones.

The residential complex will consist of 2,035 units, of which 230 will be set aside for affordable housing, and 735 for “active adult use” for residents age 55 or older.

Neighboring East Rutherford is home to a massive development that will also affect Secaucus. The 2.2 million-square-foot retail and entertainment project known as Xanadu continued its construction progress throughout 2007, during which time “The entire development has taken shape,” according to Lloyd Kaplan, a representative of Xanadu. Some of the projects completed in 2007 included an indoor skiing area, a snow dome and various roadwork. Once complete, Xanadu will also include a minor league baseball stadium and movie theatres, as well as an array of retail stores. No residential development in Xanadu is currently planned.

Bayonne

The entire city of Bayonne is experiencing a rebirth because of two major changes: the addition of several new light rail stops in the city over the past few years, and the deeding of a sizeable piece of redevelopment land to the city by the U.S. Army in 2001.

The city is seeking out developers for its sizable Military Ocean Terminal of Bayonne (MOTBY) property, which was closed down by U.S. Congress in 1996. The city wants developers to build in its six distinct districts: Harbor Station, Bayonne Bay, the Landing, the Loft District, Bayonne Point, and the Maritime Industrial District. According to the plan, there could be as many as 6,700 housing units, 1.5 million square feet of office space, as well as a hotel and civic space.

Currently, Trammell Crow Company has been chosen to develop the “Bayonne Bay” District. The company, which is the nation’s largest developer of rental housing, is successfully moving ahead on its luxury rental complex, with a groundbreaking scheduled for January of 2008. According to published reports, the 7.42-acres will yield 500 rentals that are expected to be available for occupancy by the spring of 2009.

Besides the major residential projects that are likely to change the face of Bayonne, there are retail areas being added, including renovations on Broadway.

On the retail front, The Cameron Group, based out of East Syracuse, N.Y., is scheduled to have a ground breaking on its 30-acre Bayonne Crossing shopping mall this coming January. It plans to have the area at least partially completed by the end of 2008, with tenants expected to move in by this coming fall.

The mall is expected to add 800 full-time jobs to Bayonne, incorporating major retailers like Lowe’s Home Improvement, Circuit City, and the New York Sports Club.

Michael Mullins can be reached at mmullins@hudsonreporter.com./I>

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