Conference confirms Jersey City real estate is still hot

BY David Cruz, Senior Correspondent |

By now you’ve heard about the boom in Jersey City. Once the region’s best kept secret, the city is now at the top of most lists in New Jersey when it comes to desirable locations, and those in the know — typified by the people at Tuesday’s Jersey City Summit — say there’s room for still more growth. The fourth edition of the conference attracted big names, like former Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who now works at a law firm downtown.

“There are a lot of opportunities left here, a lot of parking spaces, a lot of empty blocks,” said Guadagno. “We’re going to see, I think, not just hundreds of units, but thousands, maybe even close to millions of square feet still need to be developed in Jersey City. There’s plenty of opportunity here.”

Developers, real estate executives, investors and some government regulators discussed commercial, office and residential development prospects. You might think that downtown has hit a critical mass, but the consensus is that it’s not quite at capacity, as developers look upward, like at 99 Hudson, the state’s tallest residential building.

“You’re right across the street from New York City,” added Guadagno. “There’s just no reason in the world we can’t take advantage. As you heard at the last panel, take advantage of all of what’s going on in New York City and literally do it at a price that people can afford.”

Developer Paul Silverman has been building in Jersey City since the early 80s, before all the high rises changed the scenery. Silverman started small and still develops buildings with around 100 units, compared to the hundreds of apartments in the newer towers. He says the larger developers will learn quickly about the city’s biggest strength.

“The diversity. It’s not really any one demographic. I think our demographic is really well educated, nice people, so we’ve been fortunate,” he said. “But we are getting people from all over the world, so we have to build buildings that are attractive to families, as well as singles, as well as seniors, people who are selling their homes in the suburbs and moving back to Jersey City.”

But the laws of gravity apply to everything and there are pundits who warn that the real estate market in Jersey City is due for a cooling-off period. Silverman and others say the city has become as much a part of the other city across the Hudson that it should survive a market correction by virtue of its new role as a de facto sixth borough. But before any of that happens, Gov. Phil Murphy, who was the keynote speaker Tuesday, says it’s important to spread the wealth that real estate development brings.

“There are a lot of new folks who have come here, but it has to work for the folks who fought and stayed, who have been here through the decades. And that was a big part of my remarks today, to make sure that it isn’t just this gorgeous, unbelievable waterfront across the Hudson from New York City, but that it is a community that in the whole, in all of its neighborhoods and all of its streets, developed.”

Which sounds fair, but can come across as really rational in a city where irrational exuberance is still the order of the day.