When the first wave of developers broke ground in Jersey City in the ’90s, they relied heavily on its proximity to Manhattan and public transportation to fill modest rental units.
“Earlier on, the main selling point was just building an efficient product with views of Manhattan where you could get them.” said David Barry, president of Ironstate Development Company.
Fast -forward nearly two decades and Ironstate’s latest project touts luxury living accommodations typically found on the other side of the Hudson. Instead of reminding prospective renters about the benefits of living in the Big Apple’s shadow, Ironstate’s newest advertising campaign celebrates the city as a draw in and of itself, proclaiming “We Are Jersey City”.
“As the energy and success grew around the urban areas, it became more obvious that this is a great place to live and work. There is a demand for this city.” Barry said. “My projects have gotten bigger, more architecturally significant, and include more design and amenities. “
Illustrating his point is Ironstate and Panepinto Properties’ ongoing project on Christopher Columbus Drive. The development opened in 2007 with the 400-unit 50 Columbus tower set atop the then-recently remodeled Grove Street PATH Station.
‘”That building represents part of Jersey City’s evolution Us a more traditional brick building with efficiencies.” said Barry.
In comparison, developers dubbed the project’s next phase, 70 Columbus, a “residential jewel”.
A high- rise with 543 luxury units, the newly opened 70 Columbus was designed by prominent New York firm Gwathmey, Siegel, Kaufman and Associate Architects. The project’s final two phases will include additional luxury rental residences at 90 Columbus, a 150-room Marriott Residence Inn at 80 Columbus and mixed retail services.
In addition to unobstructed views of downtown Manhattan, 70 Columbus offers upscale amenities on par with high-end Manhattan living: an attended lobby, fireplace lounge, billiards room, multimedia theater, catering kitchen, landscaped roof deck including a pool, grilling/ BBO stations, sport court, dog run and an outdoor kids play area.
It’s those extras – which also includes parks with sweeping Manhattan vistas, organic garden plots, Citi Bike stations, cooking classes and doggie day care centers – that foster communal livinq and are the calling card of this new spate of development springing up in Jersey City, said Jeremy Kaplan, chief operating officer of KRE Group.
Today it’s not just come home, get your mail, go up to your apartment and don’t come back out.” said Kaplan of the modern urban dweller. “People want to get to know who is living next to them. They are interested in community and our buildings are being designed to cater to that.”
In the case of 18 Park, one of many joint projects from KRE Group and Ironstate, the building was developed around that interest in community – literally. The architecturally distinct 11-story structure, which opened in 2014 and features 422 residences in the city’s Liberty Harbor North neighborhood, also is home to the new 18.000-square-foot Boys & Girls Club of Hudson County.
What the two developers have planned at the site of the former Boys & Girts Club behind 235 Grand St promises to cultivate outdoor community gathering space and revitalize a sizable chunk of Jersey City’s waterfront. Plans for 235 Grand are not finalized, but include a 45-story rental lower with 549 units and an additional 10-story building with 131 units next door. A key piece of the plan would take Grove Street where it ends at Grand and extend it to a public park on the waterfront.
“Grove Street has become such a draw to walk and to shop. This would just continue the flow of the cityscape.” said Kaplan. “The city has been encouraging us to extend Grove to change the landscape of Jersey City and benefit its residents. It’s something we couldn’t do without their support.”
And just how many more residential properties can Jersey City support?
As the population has grown, so has the burden on the light rail, PATH and ferry connections that spurred redevelopment in the first place.
“We have a finite number of links to the city.” said Barry. “I think that’s an issue that has to be resolved sooner or later. We need more ferries, more efficient trains. The Port Authority needs to invest more money in that system.”
But in the immediate future, Kaplan and Barry still see room for growth here.
“Jersey City has become a desirable place to live in its own right. The draw before was the accessibility and affordability, but it’s also acquired enormous quality of life features.” Kaplan said. “We continue to believe that will grow and grow.”