Beyond urban New Jersey

Converted factories, redeveloped residential and new multifamily are some of the state’s biggest projects
By Richard Murdocco | July 12, 2018 11:00AM

The 473-acre campus of a former Bell Labs facility has become a mixed-use center dubbed Bell Works.

While development in New Jersey’s urban centers is what primarily makes headlines, other areas of the Garden State are also capturing the interest of builders. The Real Deal looked in on five counties where big changes are afoot.

Union County

While Essex and Hudson Counties boom, nearby Union County is continuing to see spillover demand.

Within the city of Plainfield, a host of new developments are springing up, including Quin Sleepy Hollow, Whippany-based JMF Properties’ $50 million residential project, which broke ground on a formerly blighted 4.74-acre site in September 2017. The project, the largest development in the area, will add 212 luxury units to Plainfield’s housing inventory. Leasing on the project should begin in late fall, the company said.

The Station at Grant Avenue, a $25 million project from West Orange-based TD+Partners that’s rising in the West End area, will boast 90 residential mixed-income units in a five-story building. It’s the second part of a two-phase effort that also includes a 44,000-square-foot office and commercial facility. The developer estimates that this second phase will be completed by 2019.

Mercer County

The site of The former Muhlenberg Hospital in Plainfield, which closed in 2008 and sits on 10.8 acres, is being eyed for a mixed-use development. The project would include a 186,000-square-foot medical arts complex, plus 120 luxury residential apartments.

The developer, Bloomfield-based CHA Partners — which specializes in the redevelopment of hospitals — expects the effort to cost $56 million but is in the midst of a legal battle over the acquisition of the site.

The city of Trenton had grappled for years with the best way to reinvigorate a 6.8-acre historic site on the south side. The lot is the former home of the John A. Roebling’s Sons Company, a local manufacturing company that produced wire and wire rope. The Industrial Revolution-era complex has been vacant since the 1970s. 

The Quin Sleepy Hollow, a $50 million residential project in Plainfi eld.

In 2011, Mercer County approved a $130 million mixed-use concept by Trenton-based developer HHG Development Associates to adapt the historic site for more modern usage. When the project, Roebling Center, is completed in about five-years, HHG will have created housing, retail space, offices, open space and parking. Newly elected Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora thinks the defunct factory could even become a marijuana-growing facility. (See page 62 for a look at how legalized marijuana could affect
New Jersey.)

Roebling Center will deliver 192 apartments, 175,000 square feet of commercial office space and 40,000 square feet of restaurant, amenity and retail space, as well as a public plaza. Roebling Lofts, the project’s first phase — which opened in October 2017 — comprises 138 one- and two-bedroom apartments, with rents that start at $1,140 for a one-bedroom unit and $1,595 for a two-bedroom.

Monmouth County

In Monmouth County, the redevelop-ment of suburban office complexes is king, and the Bell Works project is the crown.

Holmdel-based Somerset Development is converting the former Bell Labs facility, originally a sprawling 473-acre industrial campus, into a mixed-use center. The redevelopment includes 1.2 million square feet of office space, 220,000 square feet of retail space, a 200-room hotel, 225 market-rate residential units and 800,000 square feet of public spaces.

The project is more than 75 percent leased, said Mark Russo, research manager for Newmark Knight Frank’s New Jersey office. It’s anchored by iCIMS, a company that specializes in recruitment software and occupies 350,000 square feet at the site. Other tenants that call Bell Works home include Spirent Communications, Jersey Central Power & Light and Nvidia, a technology company.

“Most of these tenants relocated from within Monmouth County and adjacent areas,” Russo said.

One notable exception: Guardian Life Insurance, which leased 91,319 square feet last year for some of its technological operations previously based in New York.

Atlantic County

The famous boardwalk in Atlantic City is optimistically bracing for a new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and a Polercoaster.

The Polercoaster, a $138 million project directly on the boardwalk, is a 52,000-square-foot entertainment complex on the former site of the Sands Casino. It will include a zipline, extreme ninja course, XD theater, skydiving simulator, bar/restaurant and retail space. Oh, and a “vertical roller coaster” that rises 350 feet above the city.

In April 2017, the project received a $38.7 million grant from the state in an effort to jump-start activity on the boardwalk, which has struggled in recent decades, experiencing a series of fiscal ups and downs before the roller coaster was even conceived.

Nearby, on the former site of Atlantic City High School, a $178.3 million development is rising that will house an additional campus of Stockton University, a public university with campuses across the state. The school entered a private-public partnership with Atlantic City Development Corporation, a nonprofit entity that was modeled on  successful redevelopment efforts undertaken by Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

Stockton’s newest campus is a key component of the larger Atlantic City Gateway Project, a $210 million 675,000-square-foot project that will also include a new six-story, 75,000-square-foot corporate headquarters for South Jersey Gas and 7,000 square feet of retail space. The projects are expected to be completed this coming winter.

About 12 miles west of Atlantic City, Egg Harbor Township has approved Harbor Landing, a 204-unit garden apartment complex. Franklin Realty Development, based in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, secured a $34.7 million construction loan in May, and the project’s groundbreaking is expected in the late summer or early fall.

Harbor Landing is slated to include eight buildings, a saltwater pool, tennis courts, dog runs and more. It is the first multifamily project approved by the township since 2002, according to Bisnow. The project’s financiers said Egg Harbor is the fastest-growing township in New Jersey, citing a reported multifamily occupancy rate of 95 percent.