The Cast Iron Lofts complex in Jersey City — Courtesy: Manhattan Building Co.
By Joshua Burd
Many of the aging warehouses are still standing nearby, but there are clear signs that change has come to a section of Jersey City located just south of Hoboken and west of the Holland Tunnel.
Like the ones that adorn the façade of the Cast Iron Lofts complex — serving to attract prospective renters to one of Hudson County’s newest luxury rental properties.
“We’ve done all of the PATH advertising and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Lou Mont, partner and chief operating officer at Manhattan Building Co. “The thing that pulls people in are signs on the building — signs that are right here.”
Those who have found their way into the Cast Iron Lofts seem to like what they see. In September, the firm announced that it had completed leasing at the 232-unit, 27-story second phase of the project, following the lease-up of the 155-unit first phase in 2013.
The response has validated the developer’s plans for transforming the historically industrial part of Jersey City, which it has dubbed SoHo West. And the roughly $170 million Cast Iron Lofts project is just the start of what Manhattan Building ultimately sees as a 2,500-unit community, as it turns its focus to two other towers that are now under construction about a block away.
“Once we finish this building and we have those out of the ground, now we really pique people’s curiosity about what’s going on over there,” Mont said during a tour of the property earlier this fall. “It’s very visible.”
Located off of Jersey Avenue between 17th and 18th streets, the Cast Iron Lofts complex sits between the approach roadway to the Holland Tunnel and Hoboken’s southern border. With a brick façade, large windows and tall ceilings, the two buildings embrace the neighborhood’s gritty past while offering the comforts seen on Jersey City’s waterfront and downtown.
From the tenant lounge — with its billiard and shuffle board tables — to the 17,000-square-foot rooftop deck with an infinity pool and gas fire pits, the builder has sought to include every amenity that Gold Coast renters typically seek. The apartments are complete with high-end finishes and appliances, and Mont touted larger-than-average floorplans that he says attract a broader demographic, including empty-nesters and young families moving up from Hoboken.
Previously, those renters would look to the suburbs or a quieter section of Hudson County.
“Now we’ve offered them a real alternative, and it’s a more mature community than what we used to see,” Mont said. “We rent to everyone, of course, but … as we turn over apartments in Cast Iron I, we’re seeing a slightly older, slightly more mature resident coming into the space.”
Those residents have come to rely on another key feature at Cast Iron Lofts: the luxury shuttles that bring them to area PATH stations and other locations. Mont said the free service does more than enough to compensate for the fact that the property is not directly next to a train stop, adding that residents enjoy getting into the routine of commuting with their neighbors.
In fact, he said, he has seen commuters opt for a shuttle over a light rail — even when the latter is available nearby — given that the shuttle is free and is a more comfortable option in bad weather conditions.
“Whether it’s close to transportation or far from transportation, the shuttle has been a very big success in all of our properties,” Mont said. “Our competition, in terms of transportation, are buildings that are located within a block of a PATH station. You can’t beat that convenience.”
With lease-up complete at Cast Iron Lofts, Manhattan Building Co. is now focused on the surrounding neighborhood. About a block south of the complex, the firm has started construction on two towers known as SoHo West I and II, which will deliver hundreds more units to the area by the end of next year.
The Hoboken-based developer also hopes to acquire several other fully approved parcels in the area that would allow it to construct a new park and other buildings. Those parcels include the full block between Cast Iron Lofts and the newer towers, bounded by Coles Street, Jersey Avenue, 16th Street and 17th Street.
It would help support the redevelopment of SoHo West, which already has seen the addition of new retailers at the Cast Iron Lofts complex. With about 20,000 square feet of rentable space, the ground floor includes merchants such as 8 Springs Studio, a Pilates and yoga operator, plus a bilingual preschool known as Viaquenti Academy and the coffee chain Brewshot.
Those retailers stand to benefit from the roughly 800 new residents that Manhattan Building Co. has drawn to the area since 2013. To ensure that those renters stay happy and engaged, the firm employs a property management, maintenance and leasing staff of about 20, who are on-site employees of the firm, rather than belonging to a third party.
“It’s important to us. As we build the rest of the community, we know that people interact,” Mont said. “We want them to talk to each other and have positive things to say about the buildings, about the community, about the management team.
“We really strive to make sure that people not just have a place to live, but they feel like they’re part of a community.”
A constant case study
Renters at Cast Iron Lofts have just about every amenity and common space they could want — from four outdoor cabanas to a children’s playroom with a chalk walls and PlayStation.
But Manhattan Building Co. isn’t content to simply offer the bells and whistles and then move on. Rather, the firm spends time monitoring how its tenants use those features, allowing it to gain insights it can use for future projects.
“We’re interested in what spaces they’re using, what times of day they’re using them, do they like to use them privately or with a group of people?” said Lou Mont, partner and chief operating officer at Manhattan Building Co. “So as we consider new amenities, that’s the data that we’re really sifting through in order to provide not just spaces that look great, but spaces that people will want to spend time in.”
Cast Iron Lofts at a glance
Tower 1: 155 units, 21 stories
Tower 2: 232 units, 27 stories
Parking: 350 spaces (structured)
Size: Apartments range from studios starting at 885 square feet to three-bedroom apartments of around 1,885 square feet and include 10-foot ceiling heights with exposed duct work, oversized windows and high-end finishes.