CAPRE’s NJ Apartment Summit Preview: Dave Minno Talks NYC Butterfly Effect, Empty Nesters on the Move & the Right Amenities for Millennials

JERSEY CITY, NJ – David J. Minno, AIA, PP is a Principal at Minno Wasko Architects and Planners. He boasts extensive experience with housing, community design, senior housing and light commercial projects. Minno has worked on many planned development communities as a land planner and frequently serves as an expert witness on planning and zoning cases. He holds a Master’s degree in Architecture and MBA from the University of Pennsylvania. CAPRE recently caught up with Minno to hear about his recent activity in the New Jersey multi-family sector and what he is most excited about in the New Jersey multi-family market as we gear up for CAPRE’s New Jersey Apartment Summit on Wednesday.

CAPRE: Nice to connect with you again Dave. For our readers who aren’t familiar with your work, tell us about Minno Wasko – what is your differentiator?

Minno: Minno Wasko’s staff has extensive experience in all forms of residential and mixed-use construction. Our designs are responsive to each individual market and are unique in creating projects that have lasting value to owners and residents. We’re about place making and streetscape animation. Our services are timely and our details are cost-effective.

CAPRE: What product have you been most focused on in 2019?

Minno: The product has been pretty broad – everything from high rise, downtown projects to more suburban projects that are more recently based on affordable housing settlements, and then everything in between the two. There is still a very hot market for everything here with regards to public transportation. In any and all towns where there’s a train or an intermodal bus stop, there’s a strong part of the market.

Another market component for us has been the rehab of older, industrial, and manufacturing facilities into residential mixed-use projects. A smaller but significantly growing market segment for us is senior housing, in terms of assisted living and memory care facilities. That demographic continues to grow with the aging baby boomer market.

Above: Minno Wasko Architects and Planners’s David J. Minno, AIA, PP presented at CAPRE’s Northern New Jersey Outlook in June 2019.

CAPRE:  Tell us more about those industrial-type, rehab projects. What kind of appeal does that hold for the market?

Minno: That product really provides a uniqueness in the marketplace. All of the projects we’ve done in that vein have a historic sense about them, and a unique material palate – exposed concrete floors, timbers, brick walls, those kind of things. There’s been so much bland residential product built in New Jersey that’s basically just sheetrock flooring, so these rehabbed projects that showcase original materials really stand out. They have great market appeal and get better than market rates based on the same square footage.

CAPRE: How is your urban product different from your suburban offering? How do amenities come into play?

Minno: The units are larger in suburban projects because the further out people have to go from the city, they’re looking for more value. Amenities are a funny thing too. When we do smaller, close-in, transit-oriented sites, we do more amenities. And they’re less important in suburban markets since they have more space and more options in terms of things to do. It’s sort of an inverse relationship.

CAPRE: Which geographic sub-markets are particularly promising or busy right now?

Minno: There are a couple really hot markets – Hackensack is very hot right now, and they’re welcoming development and creating good redevelopment plans. The same thing goes for Bayonne. We’ve recently finished some markets in Bayonne and are currently under construction in Hackensack. Another market of interest is Rahway – we have three projects nearing completion there, within walking distance of the train station.

Then out in the suburbs, we have several projects in Woodbridge and Parsippany. Parsippany is interesting because they have built very few multi-family units over the past 30 years and they were also losing their office tenants. So they’ve tried to reverse that, and have started permitting new apartments, and scaling back on their tough affordable housing requirements there.

CAPRE: How are recent developments in the NYC multi-family industry impacting your work in the Garden State? 

Minno: We’re working for many New York-based firms that are kind of fleeing New York because of those requirements as well as tax structures there. These developers are now looking for developments in New Jersey and Philadelphia.

CAPRE: What kind of demographic changes are driving demand?

Minno: Empty nesters continue to drive a larger segment of the rental market. There is so much for sale in terms of older single-family homes in the suburbs, and as this aging population sells their property, they want to rent. They want to be where the action is, they want to be downtown and close to public transit, just like the millennials.

CAPRE: What about on the flipside – millennials? We haven’t heard as much about them lately, but they’re obviously not going anywhere anytime soon.

Dave Minno, Principal, Minno Wasko Architects and Planners

Minno: We’re seeing an amenities trend there. Millennials really like having a coworking type of space where they can get out of their apartment for a few hours, to get some business done — whether that’s on a laptop or tablet or phone. It can be great to put it near a café as well. The most popular options tend to be small, individual, glassed-in rooms with lots of privacy but also lots of visibility to the rest of the floor, as well as wifi and all kinds of plug-ins and charging abilities.

CAPRE: Let’s pick up on that café. What is happening with mixed-use lately? Which asset combinations are most promising?

Minno: Most of our urban projects have some retail and/or a restaurant component to them. The restaurants tend to do the best. Food and beverage is the new retail. That applies across cafés, fast casual restaurants, full-service establishments, grocery stores, even bodega kind of spaces. And I think that’s broader than just New Jersey – it has a lot to do with the Amazon-effect and what’s happened to retail. People who live in these units are looking for places to eat and drink after work. They may cook three nights a week and go out four nights a week.

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

Minno: Touching base with friends in the industry and learning about the latest trends on the ground in New Jersey. The financial side of things, even though it’s not what I do, is very valuable to learn from. We want to hear what our clients are looking for and it’s very important for us to get a broad understanding of what’s going on in the industry at these events.

CAPRE: Thank for your time, Dave. We’ll see you in Jersey City!