James E. Hanson II, CEO and president of The Hampshire Cos., speaks during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the firm’s new 70-unit apartment community in downtown Westfield. — Courtesy: The Hampshire Cos./Hal Brown
By Joshua Burd
There is no doubting the appeal of a site that is less than a block from a train station and in the heart of downtown Westfield, one of New Jersey’s most acclaimed shopping districts.
But if you ask executives with The Hampshire Cos., a good location isn’t a guarantee of success.
“Of course, when we saw this site, we loved the location,” said James E. Hanson II, the firm’s CEO and president, speaking Tuesday inside a newly completed apartment community in the downtown. “However … it’s not just about location. There are three other ingredients that need to happen in order to have a successful development.”
Hanson celebrated each of those components — cooperation from local officials, strong partners and dedicated employees — as he marked the opening of the 70-unit luxury rental building at 333 Central Ave. All three of those groups were represented late Tuesday morning, as Hampshire joined Westfield Mayor Andy Skibitsky and executives from Claremont Cos. and Circle Squared Alternative Investments for a ceremonial ribbon cutting at the project.
Designed by Marchetto Higgins Stieve, the four-story complex is more than just a new building on a main thoroughfare. It is the first transit-oriented, luxury residential development in a downtown that is famous for its retail, restaurant and cultural scene.
“This project marks the newest chapter in the continued growth of Westfield and will bring new residents into the vibrant culture and character that make Westfield such a unique place to live,” said Norman Feinstein, vice chairman of Hampshire. “We are grateful to Mayor Skibitsky and members of the Town Council for believing in and supporting our vision throughout the construction process.”
For his part, Skibitsky said the Hampshire and Claremont project has delivered the first 70 of what will be 131 new apartments that are slated to come online over the next year. That new foot traffic is critical to maintaining Westfield’s status as a top shopping destination, he said, “especially in this changing retail paradigm.”
“When I’m downtown and I talk to the restaurateurs and the business owners, they’re extremely excited to have this project completed and people moving in, walking downtown and enjoying all of the amenities that Westfield has to offer,” Skibitsky said. “So this is important to Westfield and it’s important to our residents.”
The complex has one- and two-bedroom layouts ranging from 700 square feet to 1,550 square feet, with some units including a den and a private terrace. The apartments feature high-end finishes and appliances, while the amenities include covered parking, a lounge with a wet bar for entertaining, a fitness center and rooftop lounge.
Visitors and well-wishers had a chance to tour the space before and after Tuesday’s ceremony, which also included remarks from the project’s other partners. Jeff Sica of Circle Squared, whose firm served as project investment adviser, said the name recognition of Westfield only added to the appeal of the opportunity.
“They brought me this deal originally and I was tremendously excited about it because I knew Westfield as being this marquee town that everybody wanted to live in,” said Sica, founder and president of the Morristown-based firm. “And I remember when I was younger, growing up in Morris County and hearing about Westfield and having this sense of awe about what Westfield was all about.”
Sitting along NJ Transit’s Raritan Valley line, 333 Central provides residents with a roughly 50-minute ride New York City. It also offers access routes 22 and 28, Interstate 78 and the Garden State Parkway.
“The culmination of 333 Central showcases that live-work-play development projects are not solely limited to already built up urban centers and that well-located, amenity rich suburban towns like Westfield can capitalize on this trend as well,” said Richard Sciaretta, director for Claremont Cos. “This project will be a model for other communities throughout the state and exemplifies how responsible suburban growth can be balanced with creating exciting, multi-family properties focused on access to retail, dining and mass transit options.”