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Open House: Comeback for Harrison, NJ

Once-Industrial Town Is Undergoing Major Redevelopment
By Melanie Lefkowitz
Updated Sept. 26, 2014 9:47 p.m. ET
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A couple walks on Harrison Avenue.
The town of Harrison, N.J., has long offered its residents a friendly, diverse and safe community; easy access to Newark, Jersey City and Manhattan; and relatively affordable wood-frame houses on quiet streets.
“I just like the general feeling of being able to walk around the streets, talk to people,” says the mayor, James Fife, who moved in 1966 to Harrison, a Hudson County town of about 14,000 people situated across the Passaic River from Newark. “You know your neighbors. It’s a nice little town.”
But the little town is growing. The once-industrial community is in the midst of a major redevelopment, with about 700 new residences as well as hotels and retail establishments opening downtown and construction of a new, $256-million PATH station. The Red Bull Arena, home to a Major League Soccer team, opened in 2010. More housing and retail construction is under way.
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The 138-room Element Harrison-Newark, a Starwood hotel, opened in August. A 141-unit luxury rental complex, the Water’s Edge at Harrison, began offering leases last week for apartments that will be available starting in October.
Town leaders and developers are optimistic that the changes will revitalize Harrison. Once known as “the beehive of industry,” the town’s population of 14,000 ballooned to 90,000 each workday in the mid-20th century. But after its large manufacturers relocated to other states, the town suffered from decades of neglect, with rising taxes and shrinking services.
“We were left with big, hulking buildings and not too much revenue,” says Mr. Fife, who took over stewardship of the redevelopment projects from his predecessor, Raymond McDonough, who died earlier this year.
The plans have been more than a decade in the making, but were slowed by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the economic recession. “It’s taken a while, but now we seem to be moving in a positive direction,” Mr. Fife says.
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The Harrison Public Library.
Developers say they are drawn by the town’s location along the PATH line, offering residents a quick commute to job hubs in Newark, Jersey City, Hoboken and Manhattan, as well as the existing urban infrastructure.
“We’re one of several redevelopers in Harrison, and we’re transforming what was an older urban area that hasn’t had a lot of development in years into a forward modern community,” says Michael Barry, president of Ironstate Holdings.
Ironstate and the Pegasus Group own the Element hotel and are developing the Harrison Station rental complex next to the PATH station. The project is expected to eventually encompass 2,250 luxury apartments and 80,000 square feet of retail space in seven buildings, including the hotel. “We’re bringing street retail, restaurants and shops back to downtown Harrison,” says Mr. Barry.
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A clock by Town Hall.  
Rentals at Harrison Station, which currently has 275 units, cost about $30 a square foot, with a 700-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment renting for around $1,800 a month, Mr. Barry says. Apartments in the Water’s Edge, on Dey Street near the Passaic River, are around $1,700 a month for a one-bedroom and $2,200 for a two-bedroom apartment, according to the developer, BNE Real Estate Group.
One- and two-family houses on Harrison’s residential streets, as well as two-bedroom condominiums, generally sell for around $200,000 to $300,000. The median listing price of all listings in Harrison in August was $275,000, says Zillow.com, a 19% drop from the same month in 2013.
Independently owned shops and restaurants can be found along the town’s main thoroughfare of Harrison Avenue, including many reflecting the growing Latino community. Once largely Polish and Italian, Harrison’s population is now about 44% Hispanic and 16% Asian, according to census data.
The Port Authority’s replacement of the town’s 76-year-old PATH station with a modern facility is a selling point for new residents, developers say.
“The PATH link…is a huge driver in this day and age. People want to be close to where they work,” Mr. Barry says. “It makes a huge difference.”
Parks: West Hudson Park, in Harrison and neighboring Kearny, is a 46-acre Hudson County park with ball fields, a gazebo and the 2-acre Fairy Lake. Veterans Plaza is a green space on Harrison Avenue.
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Schools: Harrison has four public schools with an enrollment of around 2,000 students.
According to 2012-2013 state data, the high school outperforms 43% of schools across the state when it comes to academic achievement. Its graduation rate was 91%. The U.S. Department of Education named Harrison High School a blue-ribbon school in 2013.
Dining: Restaurants include many international and ethnic restaurants reflecting the town’s diverse population. Among the new establishments that have opened downtown are Sakura Japan and an outpost of Five Guys Burgers & Fries, both on Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard South.
Shopping: Shops and services can be found along Harrison Avenue, including the Farinhas Bakery, a Portuguese bakery. Larger stores can be found in Kearny.
Red Bull Arena.

New luxury waterfront rental community opens in Harrison

Water’s Edge at Harrison, a luxury waterfront rental community located in Harrison, has opened for leasing in October, officials from developer BNE Real Estate Group announced Wednesday.

 

Located at 301 Dey Street, the 141-unit apartment complex will overlook the Passaic River in a waterfront corner of Harrison.

“We designed Water’s Edge to offer a complete lifestyle experience for our residents, one that is not only easily accessible by mass transportation, but also feels private and personal,” Kristina Hedden, vice president of marketing for BNE, said in a prepared statement. “This community raises the bar for the echelon of luxury that Gold Coast renters have come to expect, at a price point that is much more affordable than what is currently being offered in Hoboken and Jersey City. Here, our renters can have their cake and eat it, too.”

Residents of the complex will have a commuter-friendly atmosphere by being located within close proximity to Route 280 and the New Jersey Turnpike. They will also have access to complimentary shuttle service to the nearby Harrison PATH station.

“Harrison is undergoing a tremendous renaissance and we are thrilled to be a part of it,” Jonathan Schwartz, senior vice president of BNE, said in a prepared statement. “Water’s Edge reflects our commitment to creating innovative, well-thought-out residences in strategic locations near mass transportation that meet the needs of today’s sophisticated renter. It is a significant new addition to this emerging neighborhood along the Passaic River, and the demand for this new building has been extremely strong.”

 

By Emily Bader
September 25, 2014 at 11:15 AM

Harrison takes another step forward as high-end rental complex nears completion

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A photo of Water’s Edge with the Newark skyline in the background. – (BNE Real Estate Group)

As several developers were planning redevelopment projects in Harrison, BNE Real Estate Group got an early glimpse of the town’s potential as a rail-anchored urban hub.

 

In partnership with Roseland Property Co., the firm opened 176 condominiums along the Passaic River between 2007 and 2008. Those units sold out — catering to commuters who use the nearby PATH station — but the ensuing real estate downturn caused BNE to shift to rental units for its next phase.

And once it had redesigned its project and obtained new approvals, the time was right.

“Time was in our favor, because obviously the market was only improving,” said Jonathan Schwartz, senior vice president of BNE Real Estate Group.

 

By Joshua Burd
October 21, 2014 at 11:52 AM

Developers break ground on Harrison apartment complex

AR-141019923.jpg&maxW=430&maxH=430The first piece of a new 104-unit residential complex in Harrison is slated to open by early next year, according to developers The Hampshire Cos. and CrownPoint Group.

 

The project, which will include two 52-unit luxury apartment buildings, is among the latest in the town’s long-running plan to redevelop its blighted industrial waterfront. It will sit at 221 Bergen St., just a few blocks from the PATH station that is the cornerstone of efforts to create a rail-served urban community there.

RELATED: Hampshire, CrownPoint unveil plans for Harrison apartment project

Hampshire and CrownPoint gathered in Harrison last week for an official groundbreaking ceremony for the project. They were joined by local officials and project investors, including Jeffrey Sica of Circle Squared Alternative Investments.

“Born of industrial roots, there is a modern community emerging right here in Harrison as the town’s urban infrastructure is being transformed into vibrant neighborhoods,” James E. Hanson II, Hampshire’s CEO and president, said in a prepared statement.

The two Morristown-based developers have tapped Feinberg & Associates P.C, a multidisciplinary architectural firm, to design the two residential buildings.

RELATED: Harrison: A blank canvas — Developers, town officials continue push to transform 1.3-square-mile town

The effort to redevelop the 1.3-square-mile town goes back some 15 years, and local officials have had to endure massive environmental cleanup projects, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the recession. That has resulted in a handful of new projects and active construction in recent years, as some of the rundown warehouses have slowly been replaced by new residential and commercial complexes.

But stakeholders have said construction is picking up. Two projects that would bring another 543 high-end apartments to the area are nearing completion, and nearly 720 more are just underway or expected to break ground within the next six months, including the CrownPoint and Hampshire project.

“Having spent 15 years in Harrison, I know firsthand the dedication and hard work that has gone into the revitalization of what once was the Beehive of Industry,” Jeff Milanaik, CEO of CrownPoint Group, said in a prepared statement. “Today we begin a new project and take one more step in achieving our vision for the town of Harrison.”

 

By Joshua Burd
October 13, 2014 at 1:53 PM

Harrison: A Blank Canvas

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Advance Realty’s Michael Sommer says the demographics and economics of Harrison have trended “in the right direction” for the Riverbend District, which will feature approximately 2,000 multifamily units, plus retail and commercial space.
Advance Realty’s Michael Sommer says the demographics and economics of Harrison have trended “in the right direction” for the Riverbend District, which will feature approximately 2,000 multifamily units, plus retail and commercial space. – (PHOTO BY AARON HOUSTON)

When Michael Sommer visits Harrison and sets foot on the collection of vacant lots assembled by Advance Realty, he knows he’s standing on “a 35-acre blank canvas” — one that “gives us an amazing opportunity to develop a world-class development here.”

But it’s tough to overlook what it took to create that canvas. Since joining the town’s waterfront redevelopment effort more than a decade ago, Advance has knocked down a collection of blighted industrial buildings and removed nearly 50,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil.

That’s not to mention dealing with a real estate downturn and a host of other delays.

“The bad news is that it’s taken some time to get to the point where we’re at now,” said Sommer, managing director of the Bridgewater-based firm. “The good news is the demographics and the economics have trended in the right direction, and we feel as though we’re primed for success now.”

He may as well be telling the story of Harrison and its longtime push for redevelopment. For nearly 20 years, officials in this blue-collar, 1.3-square-mile town have sought to transform its rundown industrial waterfront into a thriving urban community, with a collection of mixed-use projects that feed off its PATH station and quick access to Manhattan.

It’s why Harrison, with its focus on creating an urban pocket where none currently exists, is one of three towns featured in the NJBIZ Urban Living Spotlight.

Officials there have been stalled by years of environmental cleanup, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the recession — delaying the type of full-fledged wave of construction seen elsewhere despite having some 10 developers who have committed to building there.

But stakeholders say that’s about to change. Two projects that would bring another 543 high-end apartments to the area are nearing completion, and nearly 720 more are just underway or expected to break ground within the next six months.

It’s certainly not the first time Harrison was said to be turning a corner. And the activity is still only a small piece of the nearly 3,000 units envisioned for its 275-acre redevelopment zone, which accounts for about one-third of its total size and faces Newark along the Passaic River.

But it’s more than local officials have been able to say in recent years.

“The pace is quickening now for development,” Mayor James Fife said. “I would say right now we’ve got more things going than we’ve had in a while.”

That includes a $256 million project to replace the PATH station that has been underway for more than a year.

Fife, the former chairman of the town’s redevelopment agency, took office in February after the sudden death of Mayor Raymond McDonough. Before suffering a fatal heart attack, McDonough was at the helm for 20 years and created an environment that embraced development.

Developers say that has continued under Fife, ensuring that a vast pipeline of projects can move forward. In the coming months, the Hampshire Cos. and Crownpoint Group are expected to break ground on a 104-unit apartment complex on Bergen Street.

And by early next year, Advance hopes to start construction on a block of 286 units on Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard with its joint venture partner, DeBartolo Development, Sommer said. It will be the first residential portion to get underway as part of the firm’s 35-acre Riverbend District, which already includes a 48,500-square-foot technology complex for Panasonic Corp.

Planners and developers have long envisioned Harrison as a draw for young, transit-oriented renters, but at a lower cost to Jersey City and Hoboken. Even with the seemingly endless demand in those cities, it remains to be seen if that will translate to the lesser-known Hudson County town — and if it can support the thousands of units that are proposed.

But the small sample size to date has yielded positive results. Harrison Station, a 275-unit complex developed by Ironstate Development and the Pegasus Group, was fully leased in less than a year of opening in 2011.

The partnership, which recently opened a 138-room Element hotel nearby, has since started work on the next phase of its luxury residential and retail complex on Somerset Street.

“Are we confident that there’s a bigger market? The answer is yes — that’s what we’re betting on,” said Richard Miller, CEO of The Pegasus Group.

The appeal is likely to grow as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey continues its long-awaited rehabilitation of the PATH station. The project will replace the deteriorating, 78-year-old facility that has long served as a busy commuter stop between Newark and Jersey City.

Sommer called the station “the nucleus of the entire redevelopment district,” adding that “it only makes us more optimistic about what’s to come and about the current market, and the need to develop these multifamily units sooner rather than later.”

It’s also what helps developers justify the amount of time and money they spend on planning and remediation before they can even get a shovel in the ground. Sommer said “building in the suburbs is typically a much simpler process” than in urban settings, especially given the age of infrastructure, but it’s still a worthwhile effort.

“And if you have a town like Harrison, (which) is very much pro-redevelopment and … is working alongside you in terms of developing bulk standards and the requirements for the projects, then it definitely goes more smoothly than it otherwise would,” he said.

There’s no question it’s also been a saga for town officials, who have long pinned their hopes on the financial windfall of redevelopment. The town has endured debt problems tied to its efforts to lure the New York Red Bulls and their new $200 million soccer stadium, which opened in 2010 with hopes of jump-starting other projects.

But Fife said the financial situation is improving. Harrison is close to weaning itself off extraordinary state aid, which is reserved for cash-strapped municipalities.

Even with the delays, the local government and nearly a dozen developers all seem to feel it’s worth the wait, especially with scarcity of developable land in New Jersey — with the access and the attributes of Harrison.

“There are definitely opportunities out there,” Sommer said. “There are some on the horizon, but in terms of being shovel-ready and having plans in place, I think Harrison is unique in a very good way.”

E-mail to: joshb@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @joshburdnj

City-centric

HARRISON
County: Hudson
Size: 1.3 sq. miles
Population: 15,000
Mayor: James Fife
Notable: President William Howard Taft once visited and called it “a beehive of industry,” a motto that has stuck for a century.

 

By Joshua Burd
September 22, 2014 at 3:00 AM

Developer plans $85M apartment community for Harrison

HornRock Properties will build an $85 million apartment community in the commuter-oriented redevelopment area in Harrison, the Paramus-based real estate firm announced.

 

Plans call for about 270 rental units and 15,000 square feet of retail space near the Harrison PATH station, according to a news release. By targeting the Hudson County town, the firm said it hopes to capitalize on a growing alternative to pricier transit-oriented neighborhoods in Hoboken and Jersey City.

The project is located at Dey Street and Harrison Avenue, HornRock said. The company expects to break ground six months from now.

The project is part of a growing pipeline for Harrison, which has spent more than a decade working to redevelop a blighted industrial section of its waterfront along the Passaic River. For HornRock, it’s the latest move in a two-year period in which it has grown by investing in and developing residential properties in the New York area.

The company, led by Maurice and David Hornblass, announced in 2012 that it planned to acquire $125 million in real estate assets in the near future, the news release said. It has since exceeded those numbers.

The firm has added nearly 400 units to its for-sale and rental portfolios in the past 24 months, the news release said. Most recently, it added two new for-sale projects in Mountain Lakes and Central Valley, N.Y.

 

By Joshua Burd
August 18, 2014 at 1:58 PM

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Harrison hotel ready to make its debut

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The Element Harrison – Newark. – (STARWOOD HOTELS & RESORTS WORLDWIDE, INC.)

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., announced Thursday the completion of the Element Harrison – Newark, the brand’s second hotel in New Jersey.

 

The hotel, located in Harrison, is owned by Harrison Hotel 1, a joint venture of Ironstate Holdings, LLC, and The Pegasus Group, and will be managed by Crescent Hotels & Resorts, Starwood said in a news release.

“The opening today of Element Harrison – Newark is a landmark moment, as it helps advance Harrison’s growth as a stand-alone, well-balanced urban destination that’s also a great launching point for excursions to Manhattan and other New Jersey Gold Coast locations,” Michael Barry, president of Ironstate Holdings, LLC, said in the release.  “Starwood’s forward-thinking Element concept is a great complement to our broader vision for Harrison and reflects the national interest and significant financial investment the area continues to garner.”

The hotel was developed as part of the venture’s larger, mixed-use development project that will eventually include 2,600 luxury residences and 80,000 square feet of street-level retail space.

 

By Eric Strauss
August 22, 2014 at 10:37 AM

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