Rental buildings sprout on NJ’s Gold Coast

A roundup of 10 developments along New Jersey’s Gold Coast, and how they are faring

18 Park in Jersey City
18 Park in Jersey City

For developers, New Jersey’s Gold Coast — that swath of real estate hugging the Hudson River from Englewood Cliffs to Jersey City — presents a tale of two markets.

On the one hand, the rental market has rebounded, recovering to the point where brand-new rental projects are now being built and quickly leased.

“The environment is conducive to new development,” said Michael Barry, president of Hoboken-based developer Ironstate Holdings. Lenders are backing “well-heeled, well-positioned, stable” projects, he said.

But in an echo of Manhattan trends, new condominium developments are thin on the ground. (“Do you know any condos being built?” asked one prominent New Jersey developer. “I don’t.”) That’s because in today’s economy, financing for rentals is easier to secure.

Meanwhile, the presales that make condo towers viable are not possible at every location.

“If you’re in an A or an A+ location, you can build condos,” said Benjamin Jogodnik, a senior vice president at Toll Brothers, which has several condo projects in the works.

Still, New Jersey’s Gold Coast now has a solid record of new development construction, from the 1,813-unit Port Liberte, which opened in Jersey City way back in 1994, to newer, brand-name projects like the Trump Plaza Residences, which finished construction in 2008.

Below, The Real Deal looks at 10 of the coast’s most recent developments, both condos and rentals.

Name/Location: RiverTrace (11 Avenue at Port Imperial, West New York)

Developer: Roseland Property Company

Units: 316 rentals

Status: Broke ground November 2011

Port Imperial, a 6,000-unit, 200-acre, $2 billion mixed-use community that straddles Weehawken and West New York, started construction in 1996. The latest addition is RiverTrace — a $120 million, 12-story waterfront rental that broke ground in November and is scheduled for occupancy in the fall of 2013. Pricing is still up in the air for the units, a mix of one-, two- and three-bedrooms. All told, Roseland plans to construct seven or eight additional residential buildings at Port Imperial, adding to the collection of buildings there now, said Carl Goldberg, Roseland’s managing partner.

Name/Location: W Hoboken (225 River Street, Hoboken)

Developer: Ironstate Development Company

Units: 225 hotel rooms, 40 condos

Status: Sold out

With its iconic red “W” blazing atop a 27-story tower, the W Hoboken hotel and condominium residences sold out in August, despite a somewhat rocky start after they went on sale in November 2006. Though all 40 condos were under contract in 2008, eight of those deals fell through. Irongate was then forced to re-list the units during the downturn, offering a modest 10 percent discount, and bringing the average price in the building to $1,075 per square foot. By mid-2009, 75 percent of the apartments had closed. In the summer of 2011, the last two remaining units, which Ironstate had rented out to friends and family, sold.

Name/Location: 1450 Washington (1450 Washington Street, Hoboken)

Developer: Toll Brothers

Units: 157 condos

Status: 40 percent sold

The 1450 Washington development broke ground in August 2010. When the sales office officially opened in November, 40 percent of the condos had already sold, after hitting the market roughly five months earlier. (That number had not changed at press time.) Prices range from the low $400,000s for studios to the mid-$900,000s for three-bedrooms. The 12-story building is the fourth of six residential properties at Hudson Tea, the onetime U.S. headquarters of the Lipton Tea Company. Toll Brothers converted two of the warehouses into rentals in 2000 (six years later, it converted them into 525 condos). The third building included 116 loft condos. Plans for the remaining two yet-to-be-built properties will depend on market conditions, said Toll Brothers’ Jogodnik.

Name/Location: 18 Park (18 Park Street, Jersey City)

Developer: Ironstate Development Company and Kushner Real Estate Group

Units: 422 rentals

Groundbreaking: Planned for second quarter of 2012

Ironstate, along with Murray Kushner’s eponymous firm (Murray is developer Charlie Kushner’s brother), is developing 18 Park “almost like a continuation of [225 Grand] right next door,” said Ironstate’s Barry, referring to the 348-unit, 15-story rental that made up the first phase of the developers’ Liberty Harbor project. The developers haven’t set asking rents for 18 Park, but Barry said they would be similar to 225 Grand, where units went for an average of $36 per square foot. (The last lease at 225 Grand was signed in April.) Eighteen Park will include studios, one-bedrooms, two-bedrooms and a “sprinkling” of three-bedrooms, Barry said. Leasing is set to begin in fall 2013.

Name/Location: Estuary (1600 Harbor Boulevard, Weehawken)

Developer: Roseland Property Company and Hartz Mountain Industries

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Units: 589 rentals

Status: Broke ground December 2011

Roseland and Hartz plan to bring the first of three rental buildings to market in late 2013 or early 2014. The $200 million project, which broke ground last month, will include two six-story buildings and a third at eight stories, with snazzy amenities like a yoga room and a golf simulator. Hartz has owned the site, now occupied by parking lots, since 1981, and brought Roseland on after working with the developer on the Monaco in Jersey City. According to Roseland’s Goldberg, it “probably has the single most spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline along the entirety of the Hudson River waterfront.” Rents have not yet been set.

Monaco in Jersey City

Name/Location: Monaco (475 Washington
Boulevard, Jersey City)

Developer: Roseland Property Company,
Hartz Mountain Industries and
Garden State Development

Units: 523 rentals

Status: 86 percent rented

Billed as the tallest rental building in New Jersey, the two 50-story towers of the Monaco, which broke ground in late 2008, timed the market just right. “We were the last major construction loan to close before the financial world started to fall apart [at the end of 2008],” said Roseland’s Goldberg. The developers finished construction early last year and began leasing in March. The building’s units — ranging from studios priced at $2,460 per month to three-bedrooms at $5,775 per month — were 86 percent leased at press time.

Name/Location: Laguna (45 Park Lane South, Jersey City)

Developer: The Lefrak Organization

Units: 150 rentals

Status: Broke ground September 2011

The Laguna tower will be the 16th building at Newport, Lefrak’s 400-acre mega-project that currently includes 12 rental properties with 4,100 units and three condo properties with 881 units. Lefrak expects to start marketing the apartments — mostly one- and two-bedrooms — in January 2013 and to wrap up construction that spring. Rental rates are not finalized, but across the Newport development they range from $1,735 to $3,074 per month. The $10 billion project, which started back in 1986, is about 70 percent complete, said Mario Gaztambide, Lefrak’s vice president of residential asset management. “We’re bullish on the Gold Coast,” he said.

Name/Location: Beacon (4 and 20 Beacon Way, Jersey City)

Developer: Metrovest Equities

Units: 1,200 condos (total)

Status: Phase one, where sales started October 2005, is 97 percent sold

Metrovest’s $350 million restoration of the 14-acre Jersey City Medical Center campus into a 10-building luxury residential complex first got underway in 2005 with the Capital and Rialto condo towers, where all but nine of the 315 units had reportedly sold by April 2011. (Most of these were reportedly sold by late 2009.) For the latest phase, Metrovest president George Filopoulos switched gears, turning space intended for more than 100 smaller condo units into 25 sprawling half- and full-floor loft condos — apparently both a cost-saving measure and a concession to the stalled sales market. Rechristened the Mercury Lofts, the 2,994- and 6,665-square-foot residences went on sale in October 2009 and were priced at current levels of $799,000 to $2.7 million in December 2010, when Metrovest relaunched sales there. It was not immediately clear how many are still available. (Filopoulos did not return calls for comment.)

Name/Location: Crystal Point (2 Second Street, Jersey City)

Developer: Fisher Development Associates

Units: 269 condos

Status: 90 percent sold

The 42-story Crystal Point has unloaded more than 90 percent of its units since opening for sales in January 2010, although it has remained at that level for several months now, according to Fisher Development president Brian Fisher. The condos, ranging from 800 to 1,586 square feet, start in the high $500,000s, with some penthouses priced at $1.5 million. The average price per square foot has been rising, Fisher said, but he declined to reveal figures. Much to the developers’ surprise, the pricier three-bedrooms (20 percent of the residences) were the first to sell, Fisher said. “That is really unusual in this market.”

A model unit at Crystal Point in Jersey City

Name/Location: 70 Greene (70 Greene Street, Jersey City)

Developer: Equity Residential

Units: 480 rentals

Groundbreaking: June 2006

The 49-story 70 Greene opened for pre-leasing in March 2009 and was first fully rented in December 2010; it’s now 96 percent leased. Studios and one-, two- and three-bedrooms are currently priced from $2,110 to $4,180, according to the development’s website. The tower is the rental twin of 77 Hudson, a condo property built by K. Hovnanian Homes that went on sale in September 2007. (Units there are priced from the $400,000s to $2.6 million, according to news reports.) Though 70 Greene is cited as an important development on the Gold Coast, it faced some troubles during construction, namely an October 2007 fire and the March 2008 death of a construction worker.