JMF Properties has made transit-centered development the backbone of its development business.
JMF President Joseph Forgione alluded to this last year when he broke ground on Quin Sleepy Hollow — a luxury rental community of 212 residences in the Sleepy Hollow section of Plainfield — declaring that a location near a train station is “the single most important amenity a town can have.”
Quin Sleepy Hollow, now under construction, will comprise 212 luxury rental residences set about a half-mile from Plainfield’s Netherwood train station and less than a mile from the city’s Fanwood train station – both on NJ Transit’s Raritan Valley Line. Forgione hopes to attract commuters, young professionals and empty-nesters to the project, which boasts a suite of amenities including a club room with common kitchen, a community room-business center, a theater-multimedia room and a bike-share program.
Further burnishing its transit-friendly credentials, JMF Properties is working with NJ Transit to ensure that a bicycle-share program at Quin Sleepy Hollow will also be available at the Netherwood and Fanwood train stations, so residents can cycle to and from the station easily, either one-way or round trip.
Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp thinks the project is a positive development.
“There is no clearer representation of the renaissance that is underway in the city of Plainfield than this bold and innovative project,” Mapp announced at the groundbreaking. “It represents one of the single largest investments in the history of our city. This project will not only transform a large, blighted property into a vibrant residential community, but it will also revitalize a major corridor and spur additional retail and economic develop ment. I am grateful that JMF Properties chose to invest in our resurgent city.”
JMF Properties currently has more than 1,700 rental units and 933,000 square feet of retail space either under construction or in the development phase, all of which is expected to break ground no later than 2019.
The company’s commitment to transit-friendly properties and the warm reception they’re getting is also evident from projects like Clarus Maplewood, a three-story “boutique building” in the town of Maplewood. It opened in October 2017, on the site of a former post office just steps from Maplewood’s train station.
“Today, Clarus Maplewood is 100 percent leased, with ground-floor retail that includes Starbucks, BCB Bank, Abby Haliti Salon, and The Cassidy Bar Kitchen,” Forgione noted. Amenities include a fitness center, resident lounge, billiards and a luxury lobby with double-sided fireplace.
A transit theme runs through many of JMF’s properties, but the firm makes a point of differentiating them.
“There are 166 NJ Transit railroad stations in New Jersey, and each one has its own unique character,” Forgione said. “Taking a one-size-fits-all approach to developing properties near them doesn’t work. We’ve built our reputation as a developer by embracing the unique character of each location, working closely with local officials, and creating a development plan that meets consumer demand, enhances the local landscape, and improves character of the neighborhood, while preserving its desirable qualities.”
That outlook was evident in Estling Village, a community of 100 rental townhomes that opened in early 2016 in Denville and today is 90 percent occupied. It’s right next to the town’s train station on the Montclair-Boonton and the Morristown lines. The project replaced a blighted former factory with a transit-friendly residential development that offers amenities like a fitness center, resident clubhouse with a club room, kitchen and cybercafé, and an onsite bike-share program.
Two other planned developments – Stratton House in Berkeley Heights and Clarus Glen Ridge – highlight JMF’s strategy of delivering on a unified transit-related theme without droning into a cookie-cutter approach.
Stratton House, which recently received the township’s planning board approval, will replace a shuttered Kings Food Markets with a 150-unit luxury rental community. It will be located only two blocks from the Berkeley Heights train station, which services the Gladstone branch and the Morristown line.
The development is also walking distance to shops, restaurants, a supermarket and retail businesses, according to Forgione.
“It will feature 8,000 square feet of planned amenities for residents, including a fitness center and business center,” he said. “The development includes a courtyard-style outdoor plaza and covered parking.”
For the town’s planning board, it was a no-brainer. The Stratton House development, which was granted a PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes arrangement, produces a financially feasible project that meets the township’s design standards,” according to law firm McManimon, Scotland & Baumann, which serves as Berkeley Heights’ bond counsel and analyzed the PILOT proposal.
The development “generates more tax revenue to the township than the current assessment,” or $406,249 annually compared to the current $56,157, according to the firm’s report. Stratton House also “helps the township meet its affordable housing requirements,” it said.