Developers dig the Gold Coast

A ranking of the top firms in Hudson County by number of units recently</br> built and in the pipeline

Jersey City officials help Jared Kushner and partners break ground on 50-story Trump Bay Street.
Jersey City officials help Jared Kushner and partners break ground on 50-story Trump Bay Street.

Hudson County, which includes urban areas like Jersey City, Hoboken and Weehawken, is radiating cool these days, with its hip restaurants, arts scene and proximity to New York City. That vibe, along with rents often around 50 percent of Manhattan’s and 20 percent cheaper than those in Brooklyn, is making it one of the hottest residential destinations in the tri-state area, its supporters say.

“It’s a terrific location for somebody who wants affordability,” said Jeffrey Kanne, the chief executive of National Real Estate Advisors, which has teamed with Kushner Real Estate Group to build Journal Squared, a three-phase, 1,800-unit colossus in Jersey City.

Using our own research and data from CoStar Group and BuzzBuzzHome, The Real Deal ranked the top developers by number of units that hit the market in 2014 and 2015, as well as those that will come online by the end of 2017. When firms partnered on projects, TRD allocated the full number of units to each of them.

1.Ironstate Development Company

Claiming the top spot is a Hoboken-based firm with deep roots in the area, Ironstate Development Company, with 3,354 units. A huge chunk of that total is made up by URL (Urban Ready Living) Harborside, an amenity-laden rental complex in Jersey City with a total of about 2,300 units. Its first phase, which will open in mid-2016, will consist of 763 apartments in a massive 69-story tower.

Harborside, which is being developed in partnership with Mack-Cali Realty Corporation, will feature a gym and even an urban farm with beehives. Its lobby cafe, which is expected to be operated by New York chain Coffeed, will be open to the public and “become a social hub for the neighborhood,” said Michael Barry, an Ironstate executive.

The company is also the developer — with Panepinto Properties (see #10) — behind the luxury residences 50, 70 and 90 Columbus in Jersey City.

developers-quote2.Kushner Real Estate Group

Jonathan Kushner’s firm takes the number-two spot with 2,932 units. Among its most notable recent developments is Journal Squared, a three-tower, 2.4-million-square-foot complex underway in the commercial Journal Square neighborhood that will unfold in three phases. The first will consist of a 53-story tower with 538 apartments.

Developed with National Real Estate Advisors, Journal Squared will include the state’s tallest residential tower at 70 stories (though Kushner says other developers have claimed they will build taller), which will best nearby 55-story Trump Tower Residences; it will also add a landscaped public plaza. Other recent Jersey City projects by Kushner include 18 Park, with 422 luxury one- and two-bedroom units, which opened last spring and where rents start at $1,800 a month.  

Kushner believes the way to wrest renters from Brooklyn is to emphasize Jersey City’s robust public transportation; Journal Squared straddles a PATH train stop. “And we’re actually finding more and more renters coming from Brooklyn now,” said Kushner, cousin of Jared Kushner.

3.KABR Group

In third place is KABR Group, a real estate company based in Ridgefield Park. The firm has 2,548 units underway in various projects, several of which are being developed in partnership with Jared Kushner’s Kushner Companies (see #4). One of those projects, 30 Journal Square, calls for adding a 40-story tower behind the former Jersey Journal building, whose iconic red sign overlooks the square.

KABR and Kushner Companies also joined forces on the development of One Journal Square, a long-empty two-acre site that was purchased in January for $27 million.

“We will soon share plans for this site that will bring a new 24/7 vivacity and energy to the heart of Jersey City through the development of a truly outstanding mixed-use product, and contribute to the ongoing transformation of this city into a first-choice destination,” Kenneth Pasternak, KABR’s chairman, told earlier this year.

4.Kushner Companies

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Kushner Companies, whose chief executive is Jared Kushner, the husband of Ivanka Trump, controls 2,472 units. That Trump connection, perhaps, has enabled a collaboration with The Donald: the 50-story Trump Bay Street, a $195-million, 447-unit project that broke ground last year near Trump Plaza. KABR Group also invested.

 5.Mack-Cali Realty Corporation

With its subsidiary Roseland, Mack-Cali Realty Corporation clocked in a close fifth, with 2,373 units. Mack-Cali, a REIT with many office buildings under its belt, bought Roseland Properties in 2012 in a $135 million deal designed to expand its multi-family business.

Brought into the fold with that acquisition was the master-planned Weehawken waterfront development on Port Imperial, which lines once-desolate land across the Hudson River from Midtown Manhattan. Soon after buying these apartments, Mack-Cali added another building to Port Imperial: the 10-story RiverParc, with 280 studio to three-bedroom units. A golf simulator — the amenity du jour at some Manhattan and Brooklyn luxury projects — is on site too, natch.


A rendering of 3 Journal Square in Jersey City.

6.National Real Estate Advisors

In sixth place is National Real Estate Advisors, a Washington, D.C.-based firm with 1,840 apartments in the works in Hudson County, including the Journal Squared project, which will offer a handful of “micro-units” starting at 425 square feet. The developers, though, say these super-small versions are an exception, and that their target demographic is couples.

For Kanne, the company’s chief executive, Jersey City is an unequivocal bargain, and he might be in a good position to make that call: National is an owner of New York by Gehry, the twisting, metallic 870-foot, 900-unit luxury tower in Manhattan’s financial district. Rents there average $80 a square foot, Kanne said; at Journal Squared, which is set to open in fall 2016, expect about $40.

In past decades, Kanne said, Jersey City’s waterfront was the only place developers went; the master-planned Newport neighborhood was an early result. Now, some of the attention has shifted inland, where there are older, if rundown, structures, like a shuttered Loew’s Wonder Theater, that make up a more traditional streetscape. “Life is going to be breathed into all of those buildings in a way that Newport will never have,” Kanne predicted.

7.Advance Realty

This Bridgewater-based firm has 1,077 units recently built or in the works. In hardscrabble Harrison, on the western edge of the county, Advance is teaming up with DeBartolo Development to build hundreds of apartments and 20,000 square feet of stores next to the Red Bull Arena. The first building to go up there will have about 300 units, and Advance plans to have 2,000 built over the next five or so years.

8.Toll Brothers

While most Gold Coast developers appear to prefer rentals, since 2006, Toll Brothers has constructed hundreds of condos in seven buildings in Hoboken. Their total unit count is 863. Next up comes the Morgan at Provost Square in Jersey City, a 38-story, 417-unit rental expected to open this year. Condos are planned for adjacent sites.

9.Hartz Mountain Industries

With 829 units, Hartz Mountain Industries ranks ninth. It has a presence in the mixed-use Lincoln Harbor section of Weehawken, a ferry ride away from Manhattan. On land there that the firm has owned for three decades — which is mostly occupied with commercial buildings — is the Estuary, a 582-unit apartment building. Hartz Mountain also has a flag planted in Secaucus: Osprey Cove, a rental with 116 studios to two-bedrooms.

10.Panepinto Properties

Not every developer is a Johnny-come-lately. Panepinto Properties, run by local Democratic leader Joseph Panepinto, is a family-owned business that’s been reshaping Jersey City since 1977. It ranked tenth with 787 apartments, including those at 3 Journal Square, which it’s developing with Hartz Mountain. The firm is also working with Ironstate on the Jersey City residential developments 50, 70 and 90 Columbus, the last of which will come to market in 2018, with more than 630 units.