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Volume 2 April, 2004

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April 2004

Hoboken: Growth in Square Mile City


A Despite its petite dimensions, Hoboken - the Square Mile City - has room to grow.

Several new projects, including plans to transform a former Maxwell House coffee plant into an 800-unit residential development, are drawing Manhattan yuppies and New Jersey natives alike.

The skyline views, plentiful transit links, proximity to Manhattan, bustling nightlife, tree-lined streets and historic brownstones don’t hurt, either.

"Hoboken has become a destination, and it’s not just about convenience," said Dean Geibel, managing partner of Metro Homes in Hoboken. "Just like people want to say ’I live in Manhattan,’ a lot of people in New Jersey want to say, ’I live in Hoboken.’"

Buyers are apparently willing to put their money where their mouths are. Metro Homes has already sold out the 110 units in The Huntington, a property slated to open next month. Studios were snapped up for approximately $200,000 and the larger three-bedroom duplexes fetched $650,000.

Hoboken is considered relatively pricey for New Jersey but is still viewed as somewhat of a bargain compared to Manhattan. For city slickers priced out of the Big Apple, Hoboken offers a more savory alternative than the suburbs. "It’s not Manhattan, obviously," said Geibel, "but it’s a very cool place to live, a very hip place." For those with separation anxiety leaving Manhattan, the city offers a quick connection to buses, ferries, PATH trains, a light rail system, and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels.

Plans to transform the former coffee manufacturing plant into Maxwell Place on the Hudson, an 832-unit condominium complex on a prime parcel along the city’s waterfront was recently announced by Toll Brothers and Pinnacle Downtown. The developers hope breathtaking skyline views of Manhattan will lure prospective tenants to the high-rise and mid-rise luxury apartments. Amenities will include a full-service spa, concierge service, and parking. The development will also incorporate more than 200,000 square feet of commercial space.

According to Brian M. Stolar, president and chief executive officer of Pinnacle, "Pinnacle Downtown believes that this project is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring a new standard of excellence to the urban marketplace and build a new center of commerce for Hoboken."

Louis Reynolds lives in a three bedroom, two-and-a-half bath, brownstone apartment one block away from the future Maxwell Place complex. He believes the construction will further improve the northeastern section of the city.

"You’ll have more shops and you’re going to have more park space. They’re going to open up that beach that is on the Maxwell property."

Reynolds is both a resident and real estate investor. He moved into his apartment on the city’s main thoroughfare, Washington Street, four years ago.

Reynolds’ home is situated within walking distance of Hoboken’s waterfront park, built by the city and the Port Authority on what was once a shipping pier. Since moving, Reynolds has seen improved transportation on his side of the city, particularly the introduction of a ferry service complementing the existing service out of Hoboken Terminal on the city’s southeast end. Reynolds recently put up his apartment for sale. He is seeking $550,000 for the fourth-floor walk-up. He hopes to buy a new home for himself in town. "In four years, our place has doubled in value," Reynolds said. "Pretty much everything has been steadily rising more than 20 percent per year."

Approximately 10 months ago, Reynolds bought a one-bedroom, one-bathroom, investment property in a converted brownstone. After gutting it and redesigning the floor plan, he put it up for rent at $1,400 a month. The apartment sits on the west side of the city, an area that used to be considered too sketchy to consider. It is in that part of town that Metro Homes is developing several properties. "We’ve been one of the frontier people who said we’re going to bet our chips on this part of town because we believe in it," said Geibel of Metro Homes.

The recent addition of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail is making the west side of the city more accessible and helping engender a revival of the once forbidden part of town. The light rail shuttles passengers from Bayonne through Jersey City to Hoboken and will eventually reach north into Bergen County. It will soon connect residents of Hoboken’s west side to the city’s train and ferry terminals.

Not everyone is pleased with the rapid development across the city.

Some community groups are concerned about overbuilding and they’ve demanded City Hall check growth.

Copyright 2004 The Real Deal