Developers Consider Different Strategies for Creating Community on New Jersey’s Gold Coast
by Josh Anderson
JERSEY CITY, New Jersey – New Jersey’s Gold Coast has been booming for years now. But a few different forces are changing the way people build. The market is saturated with development, millennials are seeking sustainable living, and renters across the generations are interested in urban living – or at least the urban dynamic. In effect, developers have adopted different strategies for utilizing community, the arts, social equity, and economic development within the constraints of an urban setting. This, according to panelists at CAPRE’s recent Fifth Annual New Jersey Gold Coast Investment Summit.
Daniel F. Sudler, Development Manager for Bijou Properties specializing in luxury rentals and sustainable building says that all of his buildings have community giveback, such as a community theatre or local school. Bijou recently broke ground on 424-unit project in west Hoboken, giving back two public parks, plaza, storm water detention, and a public gymnasium.
“It’s millions of dollars worth of givebacks, but when our building is built and it’s time to attract our end-user, do we think that someone will pay more for a building that has a plaza, retail and shops outside, with a public park next door, with a playground, a gymnasium they can use? Absolutely, 100%. That’s a benefit to your development that will keep giving back,” says Sudler, whose firm has utilized this strategy in Hoboken for 15 years, and is now branching out into other markets with the same business model. “Investors like it, municipalities love us, it works for our bottom line.”
Stuart Z Koperweis, Vice President for the Center for Creative Placemaking and President of Economic Development Strategists says things in the community – like the arts, culture, entertainment – are driving migration into the urban centers. ”They want that,” he says. “Years ago people were saying let’s move our commercial properties out to Hoboken, Jersey City, but will people be happy there?” However, Koperwies says that Gold Coast residents are happy precisely because of arts, culture, and entertainment.
Koperweis thinks the Gold Coast is working for tenants because culture and experience are the hub of economic activity. “If you go into most downtowns, what’s happening with brick and mortars, is really the arts culture entertainment and food, that’s what’s driving things. That’s the basis of how we create communities today,” he says.
Toll Brothers Apartment Living is one firm that is focused on creating community on its own. Bryan Oos, Vice President of Development, says, “Place-making is important for us and it has helped define our market,” in the Gold Coast. “It has its own feel, it has two daycare centers within it. It appeals to a family demographic.” In Jersey City, they’re constructing a 925-unit project in Provost Square. The third phase will include a theatre which will be donated to a non-profit. The development will also include a large public plaza, and Toll Brothers views these place-making efforts as important, as well as resiliency, which came into focus after Hurricane Sandy.
According to Koperweis, the bottom line of community building in urban areas is to do with making the most of what you’ve got. “Developers here are recognizing that,” he says. “20-30 years ago, you could build anywhere. There were tons of empty lots. Today there isn’t any.” You have to figure out how to utilize what you have, to make people more comfortable and happy.