Designed by IBI Group, Avora will feature 183 luxury condominiums, 30,000 square feet of amenity space and 6,000 square feet of retail space at 800 Avenue at Port Imperial in Weehawken. — All photos courtesy: Landsea
By Joshua Burd
Located just steps from the NY Waterway terminal in Weehawken, the Avora offers the quickest and easiest access to Manhattan ferry service of any residential building north of Hoboken.
According to Gabe Pasquale, that has drawn buyers from other towns that have their own ferry stop, but are lured by the idea of a more frequent schedule and the chance to shave precious minutes from their commute.
“You think, ‘Well, is it that much of a difference?” said Pasquale, a senior vice president with the development firm Landsea Homes. “For some people, they just don’t want to deal with it. And they’re fortunate enough that their wherewithal and what they produce in income allows them to make those decisions.
“That was a key factor in the company’s desire to be in this particular location.”
The response has translated to an auspicious start for both Avora and Landsea, one of China’s largest homebuilders. Rising 11 stories along the Hudson waterfront, the upscale condominium project is one of the developer’s first in the U.S. since it entered the market around 2014 — and it’s among the newest pieces of the iconic Port Imperial community.
Landsea is seemingly well on its way toward reaping the benefits. With move-ins slated to begin in late April, the developer has sold about 40 percent of the project’s 183 condominiums. That has included a large “sweet spot” of homes in the $1.2 million to $1.6 million range, Pasquale said, but sales have spanned one-bedrooms that start around $800,000 to Avora’s highest-priced penthouse, which commanded more than $4 million.
The formula? Aside from the location, Landsea has touted the promise of resort-style amenities, sustainable construction and what Pasquale proudly describes as a “bullseye view” of Midtown. That has attracted everything from young professionals who are first-time buyers to older, single professionals and empty-nesters.
It’s all encouraging to Pasquale, who expects the full project to be delivered this summer at 800 Avenue at Port Imperial.
“We’ve got a really nice mix of buyers, in general,” he said. “This building, once it’s fully completed and up and running, is going to have a really good synergy and a good vibe.”
Pasquale, who oversees sales and marketing operations for the Eastern U.S., was hired in 2015 after nearly three decades with national builders and real estate firms. The appeal of joining Landsea was that it was “a clean canvas” that didn’t necessarily have a predetermined, cookie-cutter approach that it would use in every development, regardless of the market.
Instead, he said, Landsea approaches its projects with an open mind. He pointed to the fact that Avora has 85 different floorplans within its selection of homes. And while that can make it challenging in the case of design, construction and procurement, Pasquale said that diversity is ultimately more appealing to a prospective buyer.
“From a marketability perspective and from a consumer perspective, I have 85 unique designs,” he said. “And then you look at each component — whether it’s the floor, view or terrace — there are no two homes that are alike. Buyers like that because they do want to differentiate and they don’t want to feel they’re in this homogenous community where they’re all alike.”
Taking that approach can also “yield a greater revenue and potentially higher profit margin,” he said, especially given the value and appeal of Weehawken for first-time buyers. The Avora and other communities along Port Imperial offer newer, larger spaces at a lower price per square foot than Manhattan, Brooklyn and even much of Hoboken, along with drivability and easy access to the New Jersey Turnpike, Lincoln Tunnel and George Washington Bridge.
Landsea, which has been operating in the U.S. for six years, is also developing in Manhattan, Boston and the major markets in California, while also pursuing opportunities in Washington D.C. and Southeast Florida. That amounts about a dozen other projects that are in active development or recently completed, along with what Pasquale says is “a very strong pipeline.”
The common threads include locations that are often transit-centric, “but have a very strong lifestyle component” because of access to education, infrastructure, amenities and culture.
“We’ve been able to really secure Class A acquisition opportunities for development, which for a young developer … (is) pretty big,” Pasquale said. “And these are also markets that are highly constrained markets to enter, either because of cost or approvals.”
The company also has a formula in how it conceives and builds its projects.
“We’re looking for ground-up opportunities that we can put our DNA into, from a design perspective and a programming perspective,” Pasquale said, including sustainable, energy-efficient building practices and creating a clean and healthy living environment. “All of those things are really key components to smarter living and being very conscious of our carbon footprint as a developer.”
Pasquale has been touting that mantra, along with Avora’s other features, at a sales office about a block north along the waterfront. The office is set up on the ground floor of a new hotel that is under construction, showing the oversized porcelain tile, dark wood veneers and other materials that will be on display throughout each home.
Landsea also aims to lure buyers with on-site parking, a suburban feel and 30,000 square feet of amenities. That includes a massive outdoor plaza with a pool, two grilling areas and an amphitheater, in addition to an expansive third-floor lounge and health and fitness center.
The sales office also gives prospective buyers a glimpse at a typical kitchen layout and the high-end appliances that buyers will enjoy.
“For the consumer, we didn’t have a model, but it gives them the opportunity to see, feel and touch,” Pasquale said. “That’s one thing with today’s consumers, whether it’s a millennial, a Gen X or an empty-nester, everyone needs to kick it. They need to see, feel and touch.”
The sum of those features has helped Avora win a host of accolades even before its completion, including the National Community of the Year award and six Silver Awards from the National Association of Homebuilders. Considering the level of research that buyers now have at their disposal, Pasquale said being recognized by peers “gives the consumer a level of comfort, and I think it does help give the brand a higher level of significance in the marketplace.”
Future residents also learned of another benefit late last year, when local officials in Weehawken announced that they had lowered the overall tax rate to 1.49 percent from 2.23 percent. Pasquale said the changes, which are slated to take effect this year, can amount to as much as $96,190 in savings over a 10-year period for a new two-bedroom at the Avora priced at about $1.23 million.
The news came as an additional selling point going forward, he said — noting that “we’ve seen a dramatic increase in our weekly traffic since it was announced” — as well as a bonus to those who had already committed to the property.
“They were delighted because they made the buying decision knowing that it could happen, but we didn’t know where the rate was going to go,” Pasquale said. “It actually went lower than what I thought it would be, so it was really refreshing. But we’ve seen strong activity since the New Year and we’re now in the thralls of the spring market.”
Across the river
For Landsea Homes, finding new development opportunities often starts with answering a series of questions.
“What is the target market and what segmentation of the market is being least served?” Pasquale said, describing the firm’s thought process. “What do they want — and how do they want it?
“And then we design it for them.”
That was the mindset for Landsea as it conceived and designed one of its newest projects, a 14-story condominium building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The project, a joint venture with Leyton Properties, will redevelop the site of an existing synagogue at 212 West 93rd St., with plans calling for 20 luxury homes and a new 9,350-square-foot house of worship.
When it comes to capturing an underserved market, Landsea points to what will be “massive outdoor living spaces.” Many of the condos will offer expansive terraces and outdoor areas that are usually only available for penthouses.
“The curation of the architecture and the planning and design of the building was really geared toward looking at how people live on the Upper West Side,” Pasquale said. “What don’t a lot of the opportunities there have now? And what do people really want? And one of the things we felt, saw and heard was more outdoor living space that was exclusive to them.
“That’s what they wanted and that’s what we’re delivering in a very boutique setting.”