Ken Pasternak has spent more than 35 years in and around Jersey City, so you’d better believe he’s seen plenty of “false starts” when it comes to real estate there.
That’s not what he sees today.
His development firm, KABR Group, owns three sites in the city, with plans to build some 1,000 residential units. That’s not to mention that it’s under contract to buy a fourth that will more than double that pipeline.
“It’s a big bet on what we think is happening in Jersey City,” Pasternak said. “And what will continue to happen.”
He jokes that the “secret is no longer a secret” when it comes to Jersey City, and he couldn’t be more right. The state’s second-largest city is in the midst of another building boom, one that stands to bolster its already thriving downtown and waterfront areas while bringing new mixed-use development to its inner neighborhoods.
Spotlight on Construction and Developers: The long view — LeFrak talks past, present and future of development in Jersey City
Data from city officials show a pipeline of more than 28,000 residential units over the next 15 years, though some are projects that have been in the works for some time. Some 5,700 of those units come from sites already under construction, while the others are in various stages of planning.
It’s a boom driven by the same things that helped reinvent Jersey City over the past three decades: a network of rail service that provides a quick trip across the Hudson River, with demand for lower-cost alternatives to New York City apartments.
“There’s a lot of units coming online from other developers in the next 12 to 24 months,” said Richard Wernick, executive leasing director of the LeFrak Organization, which has developed the city’s Newport section.
“But as long as you continue to have 1 percent vacancy in Manhattan, people are going to need somewhere to go.”
First-term Mayor Steven Fulop has added this wrinkle: a revamped tax abatement system that rewards construction in sections such as Bergen-Lafayette and Journal Square. And while that has reduced the tax breaks available for waterfront projects, it appears to have done nothing to stifle the appetite for development near the Hudson River.
It’s why Fulop thinks Jersey City still has many more years, if not two or three decades, of development activity on the horizon, as long as the economy holds up during that time.
“There is still a lot to do here,” said Fulop, who took office last July. “So I would probably say we’re in the fourth or fifth inning.”
Developers say the rest of the game will involve new frontiers — with Journal Square at the top of that list.
The former commercial epicenter of the city has suffered decades of decline and was overlooked by the building booms of years past, but now has active construction and a pipeline of high-profile projects.