New Jersey Cheat Sheet: Activist investor targets Mack-Cali after $264M Soho Lofts buy, Bergen County developer pleads guilty to fraud… & more

April 16, 2019 05:30PM

From left to right: Jersey City’s Soho Lofts are sold for $264M to Mack-Cali Realty, comedian Tracy Morgan sells his former Cresskill home at a $1M loss, the Bergen Record newspaper’s former headquarters in a Hackensack Opportunity Zone prepares to be redeveloped and New Jersey’s hot industrial property market shows no signs of cooling down.

Mack-Cali sees activist attack after $264M Jersey City deal
Boston-based AEW Capital Management closed last week on the $263.8 million sale of a 377-unit apartment building in Jersey City to Mack-Cali Realty, The Real Deal reported. HFF, a brokerage poised to be absorbed by JLL in a $2 billion deal, marketed the Soho Lofts property exclusively for AEW and procured the buyer in Mack-Cali, a Jersey City-based real estate investment trust that recently closed on its $487.5 million sale of a 56-building portfolio in Westchester County. On Tuesday, Mack-Cali found itself under attack from Bow Street, a New York-based investment firm that owns a 4.5 percent stake in the company’s common stock. The dissident investor nominated four candidates to Mack-Cali’s board of directors after Bow Street claimed it was rejected in its bid to buy the REIT’s office portfolio. In a statement, Mack-Cali CEO Michael DeMarco called the Bow Street offer “unworkable and self-interested.” Mack-Cali, which has shaken up its management in recent years as it pivots towards multifamily and office assets in its own state, recently secured $131 million in financing for its Marbella Apartments luxury rental complex in Jersey City. As for the Soho Lofts, the development is comprised of 369 apartments, eight townhouses and 173,000 square feet of ground-floor retail proximal to Interstate 78 and the Holland Tunnel. Roseland Residential Trust, Mack-Cali’s rapidly expanding multifamily arm, will manage the luxury property. Soho Lofts’ former owners began searching for a buyer in September 2018, according to Real Estate NJ. Jersey Digs reported in January that Mack-Cali was in talks to acquire the two-tower property. Manhattan Building Company, the developer behind Soho Lofts, was also the builder of the nearby Cast Iron Lofts in Jersey City. [TRD]

Bergen County developer admits to role in bank fraud scheme
Englewood-based developer James Demetrakis, 79, admitted last week to his role in a scheme to illegally obtain loans from Mariner’s Bank, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office in Newark. NorthJersey.com reported that Demetrakis copped to helping his longtime business associate Fred Daibes obtain loans from Mariner’s Bank, of which he was a founder and former chairman. NJ.com reported that authorities accused Daibes, also a real estate developer known for his work in various Hudson River towns along New Jersey’s so-called Gold Coast, of working with Demetrakis to evade bank loan lending limits. Daibes was indicted in October on charges of arranging a series of crooked loans from Mariner’s Bank, which has branches throughout northern New Jersey. News12 New Jersey noted that Daibes is also involved in another legal scuffle involving the former Hess oil terminal in Edgewater, where the town is seeking to seize the 18.7-acre property through eminent domain to build a garage and park. Demetrakis faces up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to make false entries to deceive a financial institution and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. [NorthJersey.com]

Newspaper’s former Hackensack HQ set for redevelopment
Three developers have agreed to take on the redevelopment of the former home of the Bergen Record newspaper, according to Multi-Housing News. The Borg family, which has owned the nearly 20-acre site at 150 River Street in Hackensack since the 1940s, will see its Fourth Edition real estate development arm partner with local developers the Hampshire Companies and Russo Development to build a complex with 654 residential units and 18,000 square feet of retail space. NorthJersey.com, the Bergen Record’s online presence, noted that the Borg family had relocated its former newspaper business (it was sold to media giant Gannett in 2016) from the site in 2008. The property has sat vacant for more than a decade, but was integrated into Hackensack’s redevelopment plan in 2012. It also reportedly sits inside a designated Opportunity Zone. NJBIZ reported that the first stage of the development, slated to commence this summer, will deliver 272 apartments with luxury amenities. Russo and Hampshire have engaged in similar New Jersey redevelopment projects in recent years in Harrison, Kearny and Union, according to NJBIZ. The Real Deal reported earlier this month on Hampshire being approved to redevelop the 216,722-square-foot Lackawanna Plaza in Montclair. [Multi-Housing News]

NJ’s industrial growth showing little signs of slowdown
Industrial rents in New Jersey hit a record-high average of $7.25 per-square-foot during the first quarter of 2019, NJBIZ reported, citing a new CBRE market report. The real estate services firm noted a net absorption of 4.5 million square feet, as availability decreased to 6.4 percent. Key transactions for the quarter included two transactions totaling 1.82 million square feet at 343 Half Acre Road in Cranbury by Wayfair and Crate & Barrel, according to Real Estate NJ. CBRE reported a combined 6.9 million square feet of leasing activity for the first quarter, out of which 4.9 million square feet were in Central New Jersey. New leasing in the Exit 8A submarket, which included the Crate & Barrel and Wayfair leases, exceeded 2 million square feet. The Meadowlands saw new leases reach 628,000 square feet, while the Exit 10 – Route 287 submarket saw 606,000 square feet of new leasing activity, according to CBRE, which found that the Hudson County industrial market had a mere 3.1 percent vacancy rate. The Real Deal noted last week a spate of sales in the North Jersey industrial property market, which could be a potential sign of another record year in the sector. [NJBIZ]

Law firms, life sciences highlight Q1 office leasing market
CBRE tracked 1.5 million square feet in total leasing activity in northern New Jersey for during the first quarter of this year, with law firms and life sciences among the most active renters, according to GlobeSt. The region saw the strongest first quarter activity since 2014 with a 38 percent spike in quarter-over-quarter leasing activity, as noted by CBRE. The commercial real estate services firm said that the availability rate ended the quarter at 20.1 percent, 30 basis points below the fourth quarter of 2018. CBRE found that the Hudson waterfront submarket recorded the highest average asking rate at $43.89 per-square-foot, followed by the Chatham, Millburn and Short Hills submarkets, which recorded averages asking rents at $35.38 per-square-foot. Real Estate NJ recently reported on leading Garden State law firm DeCotiis, FitzPatrick, Cole & Giblin moving into 42,000 square feet of space at a new headquarters in Paramus, a deal brokered by JLL. Meanwhile, Colliers International and Transwestern Commercial Services arranged a lease last week for Celgene therapeutics spinoff Celularity to occupy 147,215 square feet in Florham Park, as noted by ROI-NJ. NJBIZ reported that Celularity’s new headquarters, which is part of a two-building campus totaling 368,780 square feet, was the largest new office lease in New Jersey during the first quarter. CBRE, however, said it was the second-largest deal in the region behind said it was the second largest deal in the region behind SubCom, which renewed its Monmouth County lease for 186,790 square feet at 250 Industrial Way West in Eatontown. [GlobeSt]

Comedian unloads Cresskill home; other NJ celebs seek sales
Hollywood trade publication Variety recently reported on comedian and actor Tracy Morgan selling his five-bedroom, 5.5-bathroom home in Cresskill at a $1 million loss. The former “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” star sold 275 Truman Drive for $1.2 million on March 22, a steep drop from the $2.25 million that Morgan had sought for the home when it first hit the market back in 2017. The property was bought by Morgan for $2.2 million in 2011, according to NJ.com, which noted that the home’s kitchen was recently redesigned and that its second level features a master suite with a luxury bathroom, three additional bedrooms and two bathrooms. Morgan isn’t the only celebrity looking to divest residential assets in northern New Jersey. NJ.com reported earlier this month on “Real Housewives of New Jersey” star Jacqueline Laurita putting her Bergen County mansion on the market at $1.95 million. Property records show that Laurita and her husband paid $1.72 million for the Franklin Lakes property in 2001. And Maksim Chmerkovskiy, a professional dancer and reality television star, also put his 5,200-square-foot Fort Lee home on the market at $2.2 million, according to NJ.com, which cited property records showing that he paid a little more than $1.8 million for the property in 2013. [Variety]

Paramus building home to Trader Joe’s trades for $8.4M
A nearly 42,000-square-foot retail property in North Paramus that is home to a Trader Joe’s grocery store and HomeSense furniture store has been sold for $8.4 million to a public real estate investment trust, NJBIZ reported. CBRE negotiated the deal on behalf of the now former owner, Morristown-based real estate firm the Hampshire Companies, and procured the buyer. The building at 404 State Route 17 is fully leased to Trader Joe’s and HomeSense, the latter a discount furniture retailer owned by the TJX Companies. In a statement announcing the sale of the property, CBRE cited the surrounding area’s “prestigious and heavily traveled… retail corridors,” a notion that The Real Deal focused on in a cover story for its inaugural Tri-State issue examining how suburban retail landlords are seeking to subdivide former big box stores into successful spaces for new tenants. [NJBIZ]