Anne Babineau Previews CAPRE’s NJ Apartment Summit: Thanks to Young Professionals and Empty Nesters (who want TOD), NJ is the Right Place to Be

NEWARK, NJ — Anne Babineau leads the statewide multi-disciplinary redevelopment practice at Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer. She has worked with clients undertaking redevelopment projects throughout New Jersey and has been involved in projects at all stages from redevelopment area designation through project completion, counseling clients on redevelopment plans, designation of redevelopment areas, property acquisition and government approvals. Babineau will be a featured speaker at CAPRE’s New Jersey Apartment Summit December 4, so we connected with her to learn more about the latest in the NJ multifamily industry, and why it’s right at the center of a perfect storm.

CAPRE: Thanks for chatting with us today, Anne. Please share with our readers a bit about your recent activity in New Jersey. What have you been up to?

Babineau: Here at Wilentz, we are certainly working on many projects in the New Jersey Apartment market. Most of these projects are transit-oriented development, linking new residences to good jobs. Redevelopment is often challenging work, and the strength of multi-family residential has enhanced projects for redevelopment, thanks to the continuing strong interest in these urban and older suburban areas from both the young professionals and the older empty-nesters. It just seems like it’s the right place to be.

CAPRE: What sub-markets have been keeping you busy?

Babineau: We’ve been involved in projects in the Hudson County/Hudson River Waterfront, in places like Weehawken, Hoboken and Bayonne, to name a few, where the projects have required a lot of upfront work dealing with decades of what has gone before in those areas, but at least people have been renting up the units with great City views, as well as easy access to transit that is often viewed as an extension of the New York City transit network.

New Brunswick also never ceases to amaze me. It’s been great to have Wilentz be part of the growth there over the past couple of decades as the City has seen a transformation from an area that some regarded as unsafe to one that is now very popular. The nightlife, including exciting presentations at the new New Brunswick Performing Arts Center, make it a very pleasant place to live. Plus, people who live there can walk to work at some of the best healthcare facilities in the region.

CAPRE: What about Harrison?

Anne Babineau, Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer

Babineau: We have been involved in Harrison! Which has its own connection to Manhattan with the PATH. That’s been a great location for a long time, but the refurbishment of the PATH station in Harrison has helped to fuel what was already a strong demand for residential development. I worked there for several years, in conjunction with Advance Projects, and I’m doing some further work there now. Whether you’re a young professional moving out on your own or an empty nester, you’re being drawn to a municipality that has among other things, the Red Bull Stadium, restaurants and nightlife in Newark, all within walking distance, as well as easy access to employment centers.  It’s very vibrant, and it’s been good to see how the market has responded to the product there.

CAPRE: Please share with us a bit about some of the more unique Apartment projects.

Babineau: I’m working on a project in Lawnside, New Jersey, right outside of Cherry Hill. The project will include new residences within walking distance to the PATCO rail line which runs into Camden; it’s about a half an hour train ride. It’s a very interesting small town with a rich history and many long-time residents who are proud of the tradition of having been a welcoming stop on the Underground Railroad and the site of popular jazz clubs in the past.

We’ve also recently been involved in the transformation of what was once a large, private golf course in Roselle which has now been converted into a luxury residential rental project that features a large public park that was part of the course. The calling card, again, has been apartments with easy transit connections to jobs in Newark and New York City.

CAPRE: What is the biggest change in the New Jersey multi-family arena over the last year?

Babineau: Generally the towns who have planned for redevelopment with this use in mind have continued to do well in terms of attracting developers and new residents.

As for what’s new, one thing is that investors and developers are trying to find ways to take advantage of the Opportunity Zone program. I think that, as investors and developers get more and more accustomed to the requirements and regulations, analyzing where it works, they are looking for projects to deploy capital gains to achieve those tax benefits.

CAPRE: Tell us more about Opportunity Zones in New Jersey – there’s a lot to unpack there, so we’d love to hear your thoughts.

Babineau: The requirements for Opportunity Zones are extensive, and some people have spoken and written about how hard it is to thread that needle. We have been trying to focus on places where the new program is likely to work. I do have to say that a lot of projects in redevelopment areas are in need of assistance. It’s a good tool. It’s not perfect. But I think that in time investors and developers will see it as it was envisioned – as a way to drive capital gains investment into areas where your average capital gain recipient may not otherwise have been thinking about doing business.

CAPRE: What are you looking forward to about CAPRE’s upcoming New Jersey Apartment Summit?

Babineau: I think that it’s always good to have some interpersonal connection with others who are doing projects in the region. At these conferences, we have a great opportunity to take a look at presentations and videos about those projects. In the world we live in, these conferences have become more and more important because so much of what we do in this fast paced world is over the phone and over email. So it’s really nice to actually have a personal connection as well as a visual connection to these products out there – and learn from them.

CAPRE: We’ve been hearing a lot about headwinds across the river in Manhattan. How are those market forces impacting New Jersey, in your opinion?

Babineau: The market has been strong in New Jersey and I think it will continue to be strong. I think the downswing in the New York City market has something to do with the foreign investor types who are buying more for investment, rather than for personal use. And there’s been a lot of high-rise, very dense development there. Whereas while we’ve had plenty of development, it’s been on a scale that’s much more easily absorbed by the market – not to mention that we have some very sophisticated developers who are very conscious of the marketing of their units to match the potential absorption.

CAPRE: Got it. Thank you for your time, Anne. We’ll see you in Jersey City December 4!

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