New York Post: Growth Spurt – Families Find the Space They Need in Jersey City

The Beacon in Jersey City

New York Post

Jersey City is growing up. Until recently, the area — a hop, skip and one stop from Manhattan on the PATH — drew mostly first-time buyers and single renters who wanted more bang for their real-estate buck.

“Someone mentioned Newport to us, and we took the PATH out here, and they showed us the apartment, and we were like, ‘We are moving here.’ We made the decision in one day,” says Whitney Malin, who moved with her husband, Jon Dickson, into the Southampton building, which is part of the Newport development — a mixed-use community with 15 residential buildings, comprising more than 4,000 apartments, and a PATH stop.

Whitney Malin and her husband, Jon Dickson, moved from the Upper West Side to the Southampton rental building in Jersey City, where they are raising their 6-year-old twins, Cameron and Sammi.

The couple, who made the move just over six years ago, had been living in a 700-square-foot rental on the Upper West Side for which they paid $1,800. In Jersey City, they got 1,400 square feet, two bedrooms and two bathrooms for “not much more.

“We just kept running from room to room, thinking what people in New York would pay for this,” says Malin, who is raising her 6-year-old twins in Jersey City.

Now the stroller set is descending on the area en masse.

“We’re seeing two-bedroom and three-bedroom homes are much more attractive; it used to be a one-bedroom and studio market,” says Jacqueline Urgo, president of the Marketing Directors, which is marketing a number of projects in the area, including the 269-condo Crystal Point, the 323-condo Gull’s Cove and the 348-rental 225 Grand.

Crystal Point

As evidence, Urgo points to a recent Crystal Point sale of a three-bedroom for more than $1.4 million.

“For Jersey City, this is a very attractive price point, which speaks to the gentrification of the neighborhood. It used to be much younger, 20 and 30, but those age boundaries are extending to families,” she says.

Still, it’s the singles and young couples that are likely driving what many perceive as the rental sector’s resurgence: 225 Grand, with one-bedrooms starting at $1,938 per month (after concessions are factored in) is now 97 percent leased. Aquablu, Newport’s newest rental, starting $2,500 to $3,200 a month for one-bedrooms and two-bedrooms, has only one available unit out of the building’s 355.

“Jersey City is pretty much on fire,” says Brian Collins, area vice president for Equity Residential, which developed 70 Greene’s 480 rentals and has actually increased the rental prices there. When the building started leasing in 2009, studios were $1,700 a month (factoring in concessions); now they run closer to $2,000. “We’re at 96.5 percent leased . . . We beat lease-up projections by about four or five months.”

Not a bad climate for newcomers like Monaco, with 524 units in two 50-story towers, to start leasing. Not a bad one for sales, either.

“Rising rents fuel the sales market,” Urgo says. “People start looking at the rent versus own alternative.”

Indeed, the pace of sales in the Marketing Directors’ Jersey City buildings has increased markedly since the beginning of the year. Crystal Point, for one, has unloaded 29 units since Jan. 1 and is now 80 percent sold.

Over at the Beacon, a 14-acre development situated deeper into Jersey City but with shuttle service to the PATH, the first phase is down to the final nine of its 315 units. And its newest phase, Mercury Lofts, 25 half- and full-floor lofts measuring 2,994 to 6,665 square feet, has just been launched.

Whitney Malin and her husband, Jon Dickson, moved from the Upper West Side to the Southampton rental building (above) in Jersey City, where they are raising their 6-year-old twins, Cameron and Sammi.

Also new is Hamilton Square, the renovation of a former hospital into 124 residences, with studios through three-bedrooms.

Most developments are doing their best to attract the couples-with-kids set by adding as much family-friendliness as they can muster. Gull’s Cove, for example, has leased its retail space to a day-care center.

“When we started the first phase [of the Beacon] we had more young professionals with less attachments, as it were. What we started to find in the last year and a half, out of the 40 sales we did in a stretch, 30 were couples with small kids or who were expecting,” says George Filopoulos, president of Metrovest Equities, which developed the Beacon. “We felt the best type of retail was that that would emphasize family living.”

And emphasize it they have. BeKids at the Beacon is a dedicated 66,000 square feet for children that will open in Spring 2012. It will include an early childhood education center, gymnastics and a sports camp. Little Explorers Academy has already signed a lease to open a day-care center for kids ages 6 weeks to 5 years. It should be ready this summer. Also approved is M.E.T.S., a charter school slated to open this fall for sixth through ninth grade, with plans to add grades 10 through 12 in subsequent years. The Beacon is looking for a school for kindergarten through fifth grade to open the following fall.

“We’ll have top-notch education from 6 weeks old to when they go off to college,” says Filopoulos, whose Mercury Lofts start in the low $800,000s. A full floor is about $1.5 million.

“We have two on-site playgrounds, a seasonal skating rink and just had a retailer called Bambi Baby open up,” says Mario Gaztambide, vice president of residential asset management at the LeFrak Organization, which developed Newport.

Additionally, most of Jersey City’s new buildings offer scads of amenities competitive with what you’d find in Manhattan.

Hamilton Square has a lap pool, a roof deck with barbecue and a courtyard. Units there are priced between $500 and $600 a foot.

At 70 Greene, there’s 8,000 square feet of indoor amenity spaces, including a screening room, a pool table, virtual golf, a pet spa and refrigerated storage for FreshDirect deliveries.

Monaco has a clubroom with billiards and flat-screen TVs, a fitness center, a screening room, a yoga studio, a pool deck and a dog run. (At Monaco, residents have to pay $600 per lease term to use said amenities. It’s $750 at 70 Greene.)

“I think when you’re dealing with this kind of community, these are renters by choice — not renters by necessity . . . so having a robust amenities package is consistent with that,” says Carl Goldberg, managing partner at Roseland Property Company, which developed Monaco. “In order to be a top-tier building, you have to have a full, expansive amenity package.”

Units at Monaco start at $1,875 per month for a 650-square-foot studio and $2,350 for an 845-square-foot one-bedroom. Certainly less expensive than what you’d find in Manhattan’s Financial District — but not cheap.

“For what I’m paying and where I’m at, it would be more for this in New York,” says Joelle Dunrovich, who lives in 70 Greene, where one-bedrooms go from $2,425 to $3,415. “There is good value out here. It’s not a bargain, it’s just better value. You do get more space.”

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