Led by Managing Partner Bill Rosato, Alpine Residential has invested $100 million to date and is planning another $430 million in development in Jersey City’s Bergen-Lafayette neighborhood. Its completed projects include The Hazel, a 114-unit building at 89 Monitor St. built in partnership with FieldsGrade. — Photo by Aaron Houston for Real Estate NJ
By Patricia Alex
Bill Rosato is bullish on Jersey City’s Bergen-Lafayette neighborhood, where his firm is projecting more than $430 million in residential and commercial development in the next several years.
He notes that his interest in the area goes back nearly a decade, to 2014.
“I drove around the neighborhood and liked what I saw,” said Rosato, managing partner of the Manhattan-based Alpine Residential. “There were a few empty lots and a few missing pieces, but generally the neighborhood looked ripe for development.”
The veteran developer is now putting that theory into practice. Alpine recently built — and quickly leased — more than 200 luxury apartments in Bergen-Lafayette. The company has plans for another 800 units there — including a high-profile project at the adjacent Liberty Science Center — as well as retail and office space.
“It’s rewarding to find a neighborhood that has potential and see that through,” Rosato said. “We’re going to be there for a long time going forward. We build them, we lease them and we manage them. Our vision is a 10-year minimum hold.”
Just southwest of Jersey City’s downtown and west of the New Jersey Turnpike extension, the neighborhood adjacent to the 1,200-acre Liberty State Park has generated substantial interest and investment from Alpine and others as it transitions from largely industrial to residential and mixed use. Developers in the last decade have built 3,181 new housing units. An additional 1,461 are under construction and 2,267 more are planned, according to city planning maps.
Most, like the Alpine developments, are luxury market-rate apartments with upscale amenities and ground-floor retail. About 700 apartments of the nearly 7,000 total are designated affordable units, according to the city, which uses zoning prescriptions to incentivize that at least 10 percent of new units meet those guidelines.
“Certainly, it’s the next ring out from downtown that is getting pretty extensively developed,” said Jeffrey Wenger, a former principal planner for Jersey City who now works as a consultant.
Because much of the new high-density development has been on former industrial sites, there has been no wholesale displacement of residents or demolition of housing, he said. However, rising rents do place some pressure on existing tenants.
Public investment and private development
The city’s redevelopment plan has allowed for zoning changes, and other public investments spurred redevelopment.
City Press Secretary Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione said Mayor Steven Fulop is “committed to attracting interest and investment away from the waterfront.” She cited the recent $200 million in construction at the Jackson Square Municipal Complex along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive — “the largest public investment in the area in several decades.” The complex, on the border of Bergen-Lafayette and the southernmost Greenville neighborhood, includes city offices and a new public safety complex.
Additionally, the city has beefed up transportation options throughout the neighborhood, she said, including its purchase of a ferry terminal in Greenville. There’s also a $13 million extension of Jersey Avenue — for pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicular traffic — that was completed last year, allowing for better connections to downtown and Jersey City Medical Center. And, perhaps most importantly, the neighborhood’s proximity to stops on the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail is a powerful incentive for residential development, linking the neighborhood to jobs in downtown.
The city and state invested $38 million in transforming a 17.5-acre brownfield — previously rail yards and industrial property — into Berry Lane Park, which opened in 2016 and features views of downtown Jersey City and Manhattan. Earlier this year Jersey City purchased a car storage lot to be used to expand the neighborhood’s new Fairmount Square Park.
Meanwhile, new retail is beginning to blossom on and beyond the existing Communipaw Avenue commercial corridor. The neighborhood lies in a state-designated Urban Enterprise Zone, which comes with some state tax breaks.
“The bones were there for a great neighborhood. We just had to build it and bring people there,” Rosato said. The neighborhood rental market is strong, attracting, among others, those who have been priced out of downtown, he said.
Working with local partner Fields Grade Development, Alpine started with BELA, a seven-story, 104-unit building at 74 Maple St. that opened in 2020. The Hazel, a six-story, 114-unit building at 89 Monitor St., began leasing in July.
Alpine’s plans also include The Hazel II, with 87 apartments and retail at 99 Monitor, plus a 169-unit building at 270 Johnston Ave. and a 39-unit building at 66 Monitor. All the developments are contained in what is essentially a mega block of former industrial properties and vacant lots right near the light rail station.
Rosato added that each has an affordable housing component, while input from neighborhood groups was sought in all the projects.
“We’re creating more residential, not replacing what’s there,” he said. Leases are being negotiated for the ground-floor retail spaces that include a bagel shop and a café, he said, and there is hope for a small grocery store at 99 Monitor that could “create a real benefit for the neighborhood.”
Alpine, meantime, was named last year as the developer for Scholars Village, the housing and retail component of a plan to transform about 14 acres of land near the Liberty Science Center into a technology district that includes office space and a new magnet STEM high school for Hudson County.
Scholars Village will comprise two 200,000-square-foot buildings with a retail space and a total of 500 apartments, Rosato said. That total includes 100 designated for affordable housing. As envisioned, Scholar’s Village would attract students, teachers, researchers and entrepreneurs to the new district and could incorporate sustainable technologies such as stormwater recycling, solar energy, composting and electric vehicle charging stations.
Alpine is working on design and necessary approvals now, and construction is expected to start early in 2024, with completion at the end of 2026, said George Cahn, a spokesman for the developer.
Rosato formed Alpine Development Partners in 2010 after working with the real estate firms Lennar, Tarragon Corp. and Lincoln Property Co. Alpine Residential came together in 2019. Based in Manhattan, it also has developed properties in Connecticut, Florida and New York.
Patricia Alex is a New Jersey-based writer who formerly was a reporter and editor The Record in Bergen County.