Condos aren’t the only things mushrooming across Hudson County; commercial development has taken off in a big way in Secaucus, Hoboken, Jersey City, North Bergen, and Bayonne. Incentives from the state’s Grow NJ program have helped in part, by encouraging companies to move to New Jersey.
Tax incentives from the state’s Grow NJ program have encouraged companies to move here.
The lure of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax incentives has seen numerous companies relocating from New York and elsewhere to Secaucus, Jersey City, and Bayonne.
Several massive and ambitious projects are underway in Hoboken, bringing considerably more residential and commercial development to what is already the fourth most densely populated city in the country, according to Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
“As the city of Hoboken advances redevelopment plans, the focus remains on prioritizing commercial space,” said Zimmer. “The recently approved Hoboken Terminal and Rail Yard Redevelopment Plan is composed primarily of office and commercial space, totaling more than 1.5 million square feet, while the Western Edge Redevelopment Plan calls for at least 400,000 square feet of new commercial space.”
The Hoboken Yard Redevelopment Plan aims to rebuild and revitalize the Hoboken Terminal and Observer Highway area. Two-thirds of the plan is for office space and one-quarter for residential space, with the remainder for retail space.
The Western Edge Redevelopment Plan, approved last August, focuses on an 11.15-acre string of warehouses and empty lots between Ninth Street and the 14th Street Viaduct, on the west side of town alongside the base of the Palisades.
The proposal calls for residential, recreation, office, retail, and commercial use near the Ninth Street light rail station. Ground floor retail will be included in all new mixed-use buildings, along with “small and mid-sized urban manufacturing and technology businesses that are particularly adaptable to urban environments and compatible with mixed-use neighborhoods,” reads the plan.
Other developments in the north end of town include Willow14, a seven-story complex with 140 luxury apartments next to the Viaduct. Scheduled for completion this year, it will include a chain store on the ground floor, which sources say is likely to be a Trader Joe’s.
Nearby at Willow Avenue and 15th Street, a vacant warehouse will be replaced by a development including 14,000 square feet of office space, a retailer, and The Gravity Vault indoor rock-climbing gym.
Also in the western part of town, the Vine at 900 Monroe St. opened in January, an 11-story, 135-unit rental residence with 13,500 square feet of street-level retail space, partly occupied by a day care center.
Across town near the city’s southwest edge, the City Council approved a redevelopment plan late in 2015 for the Neumann Leathers Building, a 19th-century industrial complex that currently houses dozens of small businesses and artists.
“The Neumann Leather Redevelopment Plan builds on our efforts to support small-scale urban manufacturing by maintaining 140,000 square feet for industrial and industrial arts uses and allowing for other commercial uses such as design studios, architects, and professional offices,” said Zimmer.
Residential development continues at a record pace in Jersey City, with skyscrapers crowding the skyline. At the same time, commercial development is racing to keep up.
Many of the new towers include commercial aspects. Downtown, the Toll Brothers Provost Square apartment tower, approved in 2015, is slated to include 15,387 square feet of retail/commercial space, while the Hoboken Brownstone apartment towers will include 24,000 square feet of retail space.
In the Journal Square area, approval was granted in 2015 for the old Mueller Macaroni factory to become apartments with 37,000 square feet of retail and commercial space. Meanwhile the 56-story 1 Journal Square apartment tower will hold 117,840 square feet of commercial and 121,640 feet of retail space.
Projects scheduled to open in 2016 include 1 Exchange Place, a 250-room hotel with a rooftop restaurant/bar; 80 Columbus, a 150-room hotel downtown; Cast Iron Lofts II, a residential development near the Hoboken border, with 20,700 square feet of retail/commercial space; and the 12,267-square-foot Sunac Gourmet Grocery Store on Christopher Columbus Drive near Luis Munoz Marin Boulevard.
Also likely to be approved in 2016 is the 30 Journal Square apartment tower with 80,000 square feet of office space and 20,000 square feet of retail space.
Corporations with plans to add or expand offices in Jersey City included JP Morgan (bringing 1,000 jobs to the municipality), RBC (900 jobs), Imperial Bag (800), Goya (600), Actavis (400), Peapod/Ahold (380), Forbes (350), and Nautica/Timberland (145).
Two Marriott Hotels are coming to Jersey City: a 150-key Marriott Residence Inn Hotel near the Grove Street PATH station, and a 267-room property in the Liberty Harbor North area. Both are affiliated with ongoing residential projects in the neighborhoods.
On the southern end of the city, a plan is underway to revitalize Greenville and the greater Ocean Avenue South neighborhood by implementing zoning changes to attract new commercial and residential development.
“We want to reestablish Ocean Avenue as a neighborhood destination as we restore our old historic downtowns to what they once were,” said Mayor Steven Fulop in a press release. “These zoning changes are the first step in having Greenville share in the renaissance that other parts of the city have experienced. By working with the community, we developed a plan that will jump start investment and bring new stores, restaurants, and housing to an area that has long been overlooked.”
Meanwhile, a proposal from Gov. Chris Christie to bring commercial development to Liberty State Park in order to pay for upkeep has met with stiff resistance from activists and officials including Fulop.
On the other hand, Fulop is a strong supporter of bringing casinos to Jersey City, which would expand commercial development exponentially.
North Bergen and Guttenberg
The most significant commercial development in North Bergen continues to take place along Tonnelle Avenue, following the influx of large retail spaces and big box stores that replaced vacant industrial complexes over the last decade or so.
A Marriott Hotel is under construction at Tonnelle and 69th Street. With a few hundred rooms and a conference space, it is expected to be completed this year after several delays.
“When you see hotels coming into an area, it tells you a lot about the marketplace and the confidence that investors have in a municipality,” said town spokesperson Philip Swibinski, noting that occupancy rates were already high in North Bergen hotels. “New hotels offer both increased tax revenue and the potential for visitors to frequent local restaurants and stores.”
A new Wawa market and gas station may be coming to Tonnelle Avenue as well, between 74th and 75th Streets. Currently the project is in the process of getting approvals, with objections from some local merchants who are concerned about the impact on their businesses.
“That’s an exciting project as well if it does move forward,” said Swibinski. “It’s going to be on the eastern side of Tonnelle, which hasn’t been developed. A lot of the older properties are former factories, now defunct. It’s similar to the [western] side of Tonnelle 10 to 15 years ago.”
Across town, a new commercial strip is slowly coming into existence along River Road, facing the waterfront park and next to the new residential development under construction. A Starbucks is ready to open, joining Walgreens and Bank of America.
“That area of the township on River Road was somewhat isolated until fairly recently,” said Swibinski. “There’s lots of housing but not many places to shop or eat.”
Regarding the two major residential developments underway at Hudson Mews and the former trailer park on Tonnelle Avenue (see related story about residential development), Swibinski said, “We believe those could be a revitalization engine for those areas and lead to commercial development, with new residents looking for restaurants, bars, coffee shops, delis, and other service oriented establishments. We expect to see investment flocking into those areas.”
In Guttenberg, “There’s not much on the drawing board for commercial development,” said Mayor Gerald Drasheff. “We’ve only got certain commercial areas in town, and those are pretty much taken.”
The biggest project involving commercial development is in fact the long-discussed closing of the nursing home at Kennedy Boulevard East and 69th Street. A proposal for a multi-story residential building on the site has been approved by the Planning Board and the county, and the township is waiting for plans to be submitted to the building department for preliminary review.
“We probably have more going on than anybody except maybe Jersey City,” said Mayor Michael Gonnelli about the commercial development in town, noting that Secaucus tax ratables increased by more than $120 million in 2015 due largely to new and expanded businesses in the municipality. “Quite honestly the state has been steering a lot of business from Manhattan here” through Grow NJ, he said.
Three Secaucus projects were recently approved though Grow NJ, creating 394 full time positions and bringing investment of more than $16.5 million to the municipality.
Warehouses are a hot property in town, given the location as a major transit hub and the proximity to New York. Secaucus already has the most square footage of data centers in the country. CoreSite just expanded their local facility and Equinix bought the old Burlington Coat building to put up another center.
Also expanding are the national sports broadcasters located in Secaucus. “NHL and MLB combined their broadcasting,” said Gonnelli. “They bought the building next to the current MLB space.”
At least two new hotels are in progress, joining the Marriott that opened recently in Harmon Meadow. W Hotels will be adding an Aloft in Harmon Meadow, and another hotel is planned on Meadowlands Parkway, along with a Wawa and a gas station.
“They wouldn’t be building more hotels in Secaucus if there wasn’t a need,” said Gonnelli. “Our occupancy rate is way above 90 percent.”
“You always want to have new development,” he continued. “You always have to increase your tax base to keep taxes stable. That allows us to do more projects, improve the community, provide jobs. This is a very exciting time for Secaucus.”
The 3 million-square-foot American Dream complex, formerly known as Xanadu, is scheduled to open in 2017 after well over a decade of false starts and financial woes.
“I think it’s going to be a destination, not just a mall,” said Gonnelli. “People will go there like they go to Disney.”
American Dream will contain a shopping mall with anchor tenants Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor, along with over 450 retail, food and specialty shops, complemented by North America’s largest fully-enclosed indoor DreamWorks Water Park, Amusement Park, and a 16-story Big Snow Indoor Ski & Snow Park.
The complex will also include a 1,500-seat live performing arts theater, a 285-foot-tall observation wheel, luxury movie theatres by Cinemex, a 70,000-square-foot Sea Life Aquarium & Lego Discovery Center, a NHL-size ice rink, and an18-hole miniature golf course. Other features are The Collections, a 460,000 square foot luxury and fashion area, and The Dining Terrace, a group of 15 full-service restaurants.
Although there are strong concerns about the traffic that American Dream is expected to bring to the region, “From a positive perspective, it means jobs and probably lots of them,” said Gonnelli. “Also increased business in restaurants and hotels. We see that already when there’s a big game or concert at MetLife.”
Weehawken, Union City, and West New York
“Other than Pathmark becoming Acme, nothing has changed on the waterfront [recently],” said Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner. But there are changes down the road.
Two Marriott hotels are planned adjacent to the Port Imperial Ferry Terminal: a 210-room Renaissance and a 154-room Residence Inn. The hotels will be built on top of the 850-space parking garage across from the terminal. Construction was delayed for about two years but is scheduled to begin imminently.
Within the next year, shops should be opening on the ground floor of the building, with its 17,000 square feet of retail space. “They’re just starting to rent out now,” said Turner.
Over in Union City, “We really haven’t had very many commercial applications before the board for anything more than a retail store here or there,” said City Consulting Planner David Spatz. “Nothing really commercial.”
Most of the development in Union City has been residential, he said, although “In a number of our midsize redevelopment projects, there’s a commercial component in the ground floor, like 600 feet of retail space in a multi-family building.’
A representative for West New York reported no significant new commercial development in the recent past.
The former Military Ocean Terminal, now named The Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor (PABH) is slated for extensive development including both residential and commercial space.
Divided into multiple sections, the 15.5-acre Harbor Station North portion will be purely residential, while the 72-acre Harbor Station South will contain commercial elements from the development arm of Chinese import and export company Waitex.
Plans call for a 600-unit hotel, 50 high end retail stores in a European-style mall, and a convention center. “I would say it’s a 4-5 year build-out with the hotel being the first piece of it,” said City Planner Suzanne Mack.
Royal Caribbean Cruises expanded their Bayonne holdings recently with a new terminal and parking deck. Numerous other companies have also expanded their existing facilities in town, including kosher wine supplier Royal Wine, who added a 260,000-square-foot warehouse and moved their main headquarters to Bayonne.
After qualifying to receive more than $11 million in Grow NJ tax credits to move to Bayonne from Brooklyn, Pest control product manufacturer AP&G Co., Inc. revamped an existing warehouse building downtown as a combination light manufacturing, assembly and warehouse facility.
Plans are also underway for a possible seven-story hotel in South Cove Commons.
Art Schwartz may be reached at email@example.com.