You wake up in the morning, it’s Sunday, it’s time for breakfast, and the only thing left to do is decide. Are you grabbing coffee from the place that opened downstairs? Maybe you’re trying to catch the train to meet friends in Hudson County for brunch. As you wander into your brand-new kitchen, it occurs to you that you could just as easily stay in. Because all those options – and more – are within reach: a downtown, access to mass transit, major roadways nearby and, oh, the amenities.
Transit-oriented developments offer residents, well, everything. And if not everything, what they lack – though amenity packages are an emphasis – they make up for with access. And renters are responding: In February, two transit-oriented developments in Central Jersey shot past the 80% leased mark: Accurate Builders & Developers’ Crossings at Raritan Station, and Avenue & Green in Woodbridge from Prism Capital Partners.
“There is no doubt that TODs are among the most successful types of new multifamily development, yet the percentage of New Jersey renters relying on public transit on a daily basis is significantly lower than those who are just happy to have it nearby for use on occasion,” said Eugene Diaz, principal partner at Prism. And that’s not always for a trek into Manhattan – it can just as easily be a ride on the rails down the Shore to beat parkway standstills.
Leasing only kicked off in Woodbridge back in September, and the property hit the 50% mark in just 90 days. Its retail component – 10,500 square feet at ground level, adding to the city’s downtown offerings – is also filling up, with LeGrand Coffee House and The UPS Store signed on. Situated at the corner of Rahway Avenue and Green Street, the development is located adjacent to the Woodbridge train station. Avenue & Green’s 232 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments are complemented by a community lounge with seating offering a fireplace, bar area, billiards and a shuffleboard table. Outside, there’s a resort-style swimming pool and a landscaped courtyard featuring private barbecues, dining areas, fire pits and a screening area.
In Raritan Borough, Crossings at Raritan Station’s 276 units located at 59 Second Ave. are also next to the train station. Like Woodbridge, which offers access to Route 35, the New Jersey Turnpike, Route 9 and the Garden State Parkway, Crossings is near to major roadways including Routes 206, 202, 22 and 28, and Inter-states 287 and 78. In addition to its own main street, bustling downtown Somerville is just a mile away.
Both Crossings’ and Avenue & Green’s apartments have 9-foot ceilings, in-home washers and dryers, and stainless steel appliances. In Raritan, the units are accompanied by a lobby lounge with coffee bar, state-of-the-art fitness center, Amazon package lockers and a bicycle share. While select residences offer private outdoor balconies, all residents have access to multiple landscaped courtyards, a fire pit and meditation garden, in addition to a tennis court, basketball court and dog park.
Though COVID has seen defectors from across the Hudson, and those from some of the state’s own cities, branch out to the suburbs, according to Accurate Builders & Developers President and CEO Jack Klugmann, demand for transit-oriented developments started ticking up before the pandemic. “People want flexibility – they want options,” he said. “People are looking for a place to call a home.” Still, as companies work to nail down return-to-work plans, or roll out their hybrid accommodations, more than half of the leases signed at Crossings in 2022 include a home office space, according to Klugmann. At Avenue & Green, there are residences that offer in-unit workspaces, as well.
Both communities also include another important addition: covered parking. Particularly in these downtown locales, it’s a premium. Because, like the train and the bus, especially in New Jersey, a car provides another way for residents to explore options. “When it comes down to it, suburban New Jersey remains an au-to-cursed location; renters really cannot give up their cars,” Prism’s Diaz said. “As such, residents place the most value on whether their apartment community is in a downtown environment that offers convenience and walkability.”
Another benefit afforded by transit-oriented developments is the option to stay. In Raritan, Crossings is resonating with people who are already in the area and want to keep living there. The familiarity, Klugmann said, coupled with the appeal of, say, not having to perform maintenance on the house you may have been living in, is enticing. And it speaks to another point about TODs: their appeal is wide-ranging. “It’s just everybody,” Klugmann said about who’s coming to call places like Crossings home, “from very young to very old.”
“You have to create a destination,” he said. Which is maybe another way of thinking about what TODs represent—transit-oriented destinations. And while convenience is top of the list, according to Diaz, affordability plays a part in the success of transit-oriented developments, a point Klugmann also made.
Monthly rents at Avenue & Green begin from $1,815 for a studio, $2,000 for a one-bedroom and $2,695 for a two-bedroom apartment. Crossings at Raritan Station’s monthly rental rates start from $2,100 net effective.