From left: Michael Lachs, director of finance and investments at The Stro Cos. and vice chair of the Urban Land Institute of Northern New Jersey; Murray Kushner, co-founder of Kushner Real Estate Group; Jonathan Kushner, president of KRE Group and Brian Whitmer, executive director with Cushman & Wakefield and chair of ULI Northern New Jersey — Photos by David Warner/Courtesy: ULI Northern New Jersey
By Joshua Burd
For someone who is developing three of the state’s tallest buildings, Murray Kushner was visibly humbled last week as he accepted an award from the Urban Land Institute.
He also made sure to highlight the public sector’s role in Journal Squared, Kushner Real Estate Group’s transformative three-tower, 1,840-unit residential project in Jersey City.
“Without the help of government, there’s no way it could ever have taken place,” said Kushner, the co-founder of KRE Group, noting that construction of the second tower is well underway.
“We’re very proud of it. New Jersey has been exceptionally good to the Kushner family and we’re doing our best to reciprocate and be good to the state of New Jersey.”
Collaboration was a common theme on Thursday as ULI’s Northern New Jersey chapter hosted its annual Excellence Awards, showcasing a dozen commercial real estate projects and industry leaders in the Garden State. The event drew more than 200 to the Westmount Country Club in Woodland Park, with honorees including a new county vocational high school, several luxury apartment buildings and high-profile office and industrial deals.
With each winner, ULI called attention to the many professionals and stakeholders needed to make a deal or project successful.
“Everybody who comes together to make it work is here,” said Brian Whitmer, an executive managing director with Cushman & Wakefield, who chairs ULI Northern New Jersey. “That embodies ULI and it embodies all of these awards, and we’re very grateful to be able to bring them together and have the quality of projects and people that came this evening.
The categories and winners included:
- Mixed-use: Park Francis, Jersey City
- Small Deal of the Year: Montclarion II, Montclair
- Capital Markets/Equity Award: Bayonne Logistics Center, Bayonne
- Industrial: Accurate Box Co., Paterson
- Residential: The Ellipse, Jersey City
- Sustainable Development: Frank J. Gargiulo Campus, Secaucus
- New Jersey Development Project of the Year: VYV, Jersey City
- Public/Private Partnerships: RIVET, Jersey City
- Suburban Redevelopment Project: 56 at Roseland, Roseland
- Industry Leadership: Murray and Jonathan Kushner
- Rising Star: Amanda Forsburg, Langan
Six of the nine projects were in Hudson County, a reminder that development continues to thrive not only on the Gold Coast, but in emerging neighborhoods. For instance, ULI recognized a joint venture of The Hampshire Cos., Claremont Cos. and Circle Squared Alternative Investments for the 163-unit residential project known as RIVET, which recently opened on the west side of Jersey City.
Hampshire Cos. touted the project as a collaboration with city and state officials and New Jersey City University, which owns the land and is overseeing a master-planned development known as University Place.
“RIVET truly reflects the power of private/public partnerships and the deep transformative effect they can bring to cities,” said James E. Hanson II, CEO and president of the Morristown-based firm. He thanked NJCU President Susan Henderson, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, the city council and government entities such as the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency.
Jeffrey Sica of Circle Squared echoed Hanson’s sentiments.
“For me, this business is not solely about the investment side,” said Sica, the firm’s CEO, president and chief investment officer. “My firm and I are highly vested in creating communities by improving neighborhoods and the lives of the people living in and around our projects.”
The annual ceremony was by no means limited to urban residential projects. Whitmer noted that ULI prides itself on “catching the whole gamut” in its awards criteria, allowing it to “hit all of the different corners and facets of the business.”
To that end, the program also recognized one of the state’s most high-profile suburban office projects of recent years, 56 at Roseland. Spearheaded by Mountain Development Corp. and Square Mile Capital Management, the $40 million plan called for repositioning and modernizing a 400,000-square-foot former pharmaceutical headquarters off Interstate 280.
Mountain Development President Michael Seeve said the project’s success is a testament to its financing and design team, but also to the two law firms that anchor the property.
“Beyond that and more than anything else, there are few things as exciting as having a building full with some of the smartest and some of the most creative professionals in the state,” Seeve said. “So to attract Lowenstein Sandler, to attract Connell Foley … that’s genuinely special.
“We’re very proud, it’s a project we’re going to own forever and we’re delighted about the relationships that came out of it.”
Other winners at the ULI program also weighed in on their respective awards:
Joel Bergstein, president of Lincoln Equities Group, on the Bayonne Logistics Center
“The city of Bayonne has been a terrific partner in looking to take what was formerly the Military Ocean Terminal site — which actually launched troops and supplies in support of World War II and was a site that was laying fallow — and is now going to serve the port and e-commerce. We are very fortunate to have great partners.”
Dave Thom, senior managing director of design and development at LeFrak, on The Ellipse:
“Thirty years ago, we set out to create a vibrant mixed-use community on the Hudson River waterfront that would enhance the larger Jersey City community. Ellipse is our most ambitious project in Newport yet, and allowed us to bring a new clientele to the area that previously had been underserved. This award is proof that we were successful in creating an incredible product that represents the pinnacle of high design and luxury living, and we could not be prouder than to accept it.”
Richard Sciaretta, director for Claremont Cos., on RIVET:
“Through RIVET we aimed to deliver a Jersey City waterfront luxury building experience at a much more affordable price point. The finished product clearly represents the fulfillment of this goal and we are proud to help deliver a building that will be in high demand for years to come.”