As real estate prices in Manhattan continue to rise to an intimidating degree, prospective condo buyers are increasingly looking to New Jersey to meet their needs. Several communities in the Garden State are stepping up in turn to attract these would-be purchasers, developing both residential real estate and vibrant commercial and cultural scenes.
One such town is Hackensack in Bergen County, whose downtown is undergoing a major revitalization, profiled in The New York Times this past January.The article briefly discussed the city's current condo market:
“The 4.3-square-mile city has 4,200 condo and co-op units and 6,000 rental units, in properties from low-slung garden apartments to boxy red-brick mid-rises and high-rises offering unobstructed views of the Manhattan skyline. Prospect Avenue is lined with ’70s- and ’80s-era luxury towers bearing such names as Ritz Plaza, The Camelot and Bristol House. These condominiums, near the sprawling Hackensack University Medical Center and doctors’ offices, are popular with empty-nesters downsizing from elsewhere in Bergen County.”
But empty-nesters aren't the only buyers. “I see a variety of people,” says Lawrence Greenberg, a broker associate with Vikki Healey Properties in Maywood, New Jersey. “Just guessing, I'd say that those empty-nesters make up about 20 percent, but another 25 percent consist of those who rented in the area after college, only to like the town and purchase near their former rentals.”
While condos remain popular, Greenberg says that Hackensack residential real estate is still primarily rental-dominated, with many eventual buyers having tested the waters via leasing first. “When rentals succeed, as they have on Prospect Avenue where I've been selling for 35 years, it turns renters into buyers,” he explains. “Hackensack has much more to offer that people hadn't realized, but it needs to really develop a vibrant downtown to go from a 'B+' to an 'A.'”
Greenberg hopes the current downtown initiatives and the accompanying Times coverage will really put the town on people's radars. “There's a lot of reasons to feel good about what's going on,” he enthuses. “They're doing aggressive, well-planned work. I really think this is...going to take Hackensack to the next level via giving the town a center and creating a more cohesive community around that popular central destination.”
In addition to Hackensack, other parts of Jersey are seeing a growth in residential development, often beginning with and growing around ambitious commercial projects.
In Cliffside Park, a 204-unit condominium project called One Park is set to open this fall. Jersey Digs reported that the building topped out at its complete 14 stories last September. The property will include a sauna, pet spa, heated pool, fitness center, and a furnished roof with grilling stations on a dining terrace.
And the borough of Edgewater is the site of several major planned condominium projects at various states of development, including 115 River Road and 615 River Road. An article in The New York Times about Edgewater from last year name-dropped the 300-unit gated development Admiral’s Walk (also on River Road); and the Glass House, at 3 Somerset Lane, which also provide views of the Manhattan skyline, a major perk of New Jersey-on-the-Hudson condominium property.
In describing the 12,000-person borough’s commercial scene, the article said: “Even the malls [in Edgewater] score points for exoticism. Mitsuwa Marketplace, a Japanese food hall and superstore, is part of a shopping complex on River Road that caters to the area’s large East Asian population. Slightly north, one finds not only a Trader Joe’s but also a docked ferryboat — or what is left of it — the Binghamton, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.”
Finally, just across the county line in the township of Montclair, the historic Wellmont Theater is reportedly set to become the hub of a renovation project that will involve 200 condominium units, as well as a revitalized cultural scene.
Christopher R. Antonacci, Vice President of property management firm Association Advisors in Freehold, points to existing properties — including the Siena, at the junction of Church Street and South Park Streets, and The Bellaire House at 530 Valley Road — as examples of top-tier condominium development for which Montclair has become known.
“It's a close comparison to lower Manhattan, and it's quite diverse,” says Antonacci. “The restaurants, art galleries and coffee shops are all unique. It's a terrific jewel of New Jersey.”
Mike Odenthal is a staff writer at The Cooperator.