By David J. Minno, AIA, PP
When exploring options for mixed-use development, it is important to understand the micro market in which you are planning to build. Whether urban or suburban, a close look at existing conditions and other development projects on the boards will identify small niche opportunities for right-sized retail, cultural and restaurant uses.
The ingredient to a successful mixed-use development project is simply having the right tenants. Whether residential or commercial, the right blend of renters can help in developing a sense of community around mixed-use developments. Additionally, by creating active and connected communities where people can work, rest, sleep and play, demand for those properties will only continue to grow in popularity.
From retail stores and restaurants, to parks and local attractions, the one common trait among successful mixed-use development projects is proximity to amenities, otherwise known as walkability. A report by the National Association of Realtors found that millennial renters seek walkability as a mode of transportation by 12 percentage points over driving. Because the concept of mixed-use development aims to provide the live-work-play lifestyle, the one must-have is the ability to conveniently walk to destinations, as well as major transportation hubs. The biggest appeal of a mixed-use development is the ability to shop, eat and mingle in the vicinity of where you live.
The developments discussed in this article have taken the “micro-market” approach, and while initial tenant mixes have been settled, flexibility for future changes has been designed into these projects as the local neighborhoods will evolve.
As Ironstate Development and Pegasus Development evaluated their local neighborhood at the Harrison PATH Station, they determined that they were going to be serving three distinct markets with the retail component of the project. The obvious market was the commuter who was looking for fast in out convenience retail. The second market was the hotel guests at the Element Hotel who were more food-oriented. And the third market was the residential market of smaller, luxury rental units in their projects (eventually totaling 2,000 plus units) and the other residential communities that are being constructed in the Riverbend Redevelopment area.
The initial retail mix of tenants includes: Pronto Market, Sakura Japan, Five Guys Burgers & Fries, Cork Wine & Spirits, The Station Bar at The Element Hotel, Super Cuts, GNC Live Well, AT&T and Dunkin Donuts. Food trucks and other types of pop-up venders activate the streets at peak times. As the market evolves over the next few years tenants may change and some larger spaces may be developed in future buildings, but walkable supportive retail in a fine grain configuration appears to be what is attracting new residents to Harrison Station.
Modera Lofts is a modern-day Adaptable Reuse of Jarvis Hunts’ century old Butler Building in the heart of Jersey City’s Powerhouse Arts District. The uniquely designed building, originally constructed in 1905, is the last post-and-beam facility of its kind in the Tri-State area. Along with Mill Creek Residential, Minno & Wasko repurposed this 450,000 square-foot historic industrial building into a vibrant community of 366 luxury residential units. The open floor plans range from 446 square feet to more than 1,450 square feet in a combination of loft-style studio and one-, two- and three-bedroom units. The spacious light-filled interiors boast 12-and-a-half foot ceilings, exposed brick, large windows and wood beams.
The new industrial chic luxury community is just two blocks from the nearest Light Rail Station and one block from the Grove Street PATH station, providing seven-minute access to Manhattan’s World Financial Center and 18-minute access to Midtown. The downtown neighborhood features a wide variety of entertainment, dining, and shopping venues. 14 on-site rentable artist studios, along with the Novado Gallery add to Jersey City’s great sense of community and emerging art scene. At the corner of Warren and York Streets, Mill Creek is currently leasing a 5,000 square foot retail space. Building amenities complete the activation of the street on the ground floor.
With many large retailers struggling with the advent of Amazon.com, neighborhood specific retail, civic spaces and amenities can create the authentic sense of place that today’s residential market is seeking. Small, targeted and flexible are a formula that is working well in New Jersey for mixed-use communities.
David Minno is president of Minno & Wasko Architects and Planners, an award-winning, midsized firm with offices located in Lambertville and Newark. The firm serves the Northeast region, specifically New Jersey, Philadelphia, New York, and Connecticut.