Over the course of nearly two years, Onyx Equities and Rubenstein Partners LP spent roughly $20 million to reposition 30 Montgomery, a 313,000-square-foot office tower in downtown Jersey City. — Courtesy: Onyx Equities
By Joshua Burd
Stephen Sullivan recalls standing across the street from 30 Montgomery around 2014, as he and other Onyx executives looked up at the 15-story building in downtown Jersey City.
It was time to make a decision on the future of the 313,000-square-foot tower.
“At that point we had two business plans we could implement,” said Sullivan, the firm’s chief investment officer. One was to essentially “keep the building as a B building” by spending $1 million or $2 million on renovations. The other was “to actually go all the way” with a roughly $20 million overhaul.
The firm went all the way, which would come to mean everything from rebuilding and expanding the main lobby to replacing all of the building’s 1,800 windows. And that decision was a major factor in helping Onyx and Rubenstein Partners sell 30 Montgomery for more than $100 million last summer.
But it was only after a true test of strength and finesse for Onyx’s property and construction management teams.
“This wasn’t a paint job by any means,” said Jeffrey Fuller, a regional manager for Onyx who oversees the building, later adding: “We really dove in deep here.
There was a lot of magic that happened with this project and I think a big part of it was the fact that it was 80 percent occupied through the whole process.”
Spanning nearly two years, the project called for essentially tearing out the lobby and pushing out the façade to create new ground-floor retail space on Montgomery Street. In the process, Onyx replaced the building systems, built a new conference center and renovated the property’s landings and restrooms.
But replacing nearly 2,000 windows, in what Onyx said was the largest single window replacement in New Jersey history, was one example of how the project “challenged the property management staff here to still remember that the building had tenants.”
“There was a tremendous amount of effort that went into managing that journey and walking all the tenants through the journey of what could have been an extraordinarily disruptive process in their life,” Fuller said, “because, let’s face1 it, the tenants are here for one reason — so they don’t have to work outside on the sidewalk. They need an environment in which to conduct their business.”
For Onyx, providing that environment even during such a massive project was priority No. 1. While the firm “knew the end was going to be beautiful,” Fuller said its team would have only one chance to shepherd the tenants through the project. “We were either going to be able to do it well or do it horribly,” he said, adding that some firms “do it horribly with the hopes that you’ll be forgiven at the end.
“Not only did we get the end result. The vast majority of the tenants said, ‘You know what? That wasn’t so bad.’ ”