Leaving a legacy in a neighborhood

Manhattan Building Co. aims to change Jersey Avenue Park one piece at a time

Louis Mont, chief operating officer, Manhattan Building Co. Mont is pictured inside the Soho Lofts in Jersey City, which his company designed, developed, owns and manages.

While Hoboken-based developer Manhattan Building Co. is no stranger to Jersey City, the location of its two latest projects within there have brought it into new territory.While Hoboken-based developer Manhattan Building Co. is no stranger to Jersey City, the location of its two latest projects within there have brought it into new territory.

Having recently opened its South of Hoboken (Soho) Lofts project in the Jersey Avenue Park neighborhood – and across the road from its Cast-Iron Lofts – the developer said it is trying to change the area piece by piece.

With the opening of Soho Lofts, Manhattan Building added a total of 377 rental units, eight townhouses and 20,000 square feet of retail space. And with Cast Iron Lofts, which opened in 2016, it added 387 units and another 20,000 square feet of commercial space to the neighborhood.

But that’s just the beginning, according to Louis Mont, Manhattan Building’s COO.

“We have been named the designated redeveloper for this neighborhood,” he said. “We’re going to be redoing all of the storm-water systems underground, raising the streets up out of the floodplain, all of the sidewalks … from 14th Street to 18th Street and Jersey Avenue to Monmouth Street. It’s four square blocks, about 18 acres, plus the street.”

Manhattan Building plans to use this designation to its advantage, by increasing the level of activity along the streets. That means adding benches, landscaping and other neighborhood amenities. The developer anticipates beginning its redevelopment in the spring.

And as the chosen redeveloper, Manhattan Building also will reopen 15th Street in a way that will cater to the changing demographics of Jersey City.

“We envision being able to host food festivals and events and things that are very attractive for the community,” he said.

Soho Lofts and Cast-Iron are the beginning of a new era for the neighborhood, according to Mont. But the overarching goal for Manhattan Building Co. is to create an art-filled environment that appeals to young families and empty-nesters alike.

“There is a certain efficiency to building the whole neighborhood,” Mont said. “It is a bit of a legacy we would like to leave behind. This is something you can point to as a true contribution to the betterment of Jersey City as a whole.”

And the developer is already leading by example. In the existing 40,000 square feet of retail space, Manhattan Building’s in-house team has chosen occupants that advance its goal to create a family-oriented neighborhood.

In Cast Iron Lofts, the company placed a coffee shop, daycare facility and Pilates and yoga studio. These types of businesses, Mont said, will go a long way towards creating a density and atmosphere the neighborhood needs.

And catering to empty-nesters and young families makes economic sense to Mont, too.

“We have seen a significant change in the demographics of the residents of the years,” he said. “We’re seeing a resident that is typically 10 years older. We still get our share of young people, but we’re getting more young couples starting out and young families. Now, with the advent of all the charter schools and private schools in Jersey City being built out with museums and art galleries [and] restaurants, people are staying.

“In many of our resident events, we cater to that demographic. It is a stable resident. When you get a family, they are typically looking to put down roots. So, rather than having a turnover of apartments every year and having to find a new tenant, families tend to start with two-year and even three-year leases with us.”

In the near future, Manhattan Building will begin the redevelopment of the old Emerson Radio Factory – a 600,000-square-foot industrial property on 16th Street currently occupied by Statco Warehouse Co. And like its previous developments, the firm wants to create a density for retailers that not only creates a lively atmosphere, but again indulges the arts, empty-nesters and young families.

“As part of [Statco], we’re also going to build a park which is part of a redevelopment zone,” he said. “That is a part of our redevelopment requirements to grow the community.”

Mont said he and the firm are eager to continue changing the landscape of the neighborhood. That’s because while the company has been developing in Hoboken and Jersey City since the mid 1980s, it has never before been able to shape a whole neighborhood in this fashion.

“Our goal is for the betterment of Jersey City as a whole,” Mont said. “We will be building our park shortly, in the next year and a half or so. You will see a park that has been designed with playgrounds for the kids.

“The most important part is that we have the ability to build something into each of the buildings that addresses residents’ needs.”

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