Welcome to Jersey City, also known as “Chilltown” or the “Sixth Borough”. With the construction of what seem like an endless amount of mega-towers going up on Manhattans’ west side, JC can sometimes be overlooked. We will detail how Jersey City may be New York’s greatest secret. Buckle up, as NYNJ is going to give you an exclusive look at the fastest growing city in New Jersey.
Phase 1: 1980-1985
In the shadows of Lady Liberty, underneath a cloud of smog, the economy was terrible, decades of neglect left most of Jersey City looking like a waste land. However this was all about to change. In 1985, Samuel LeFrak, owner of LeFrak Organization, who at the time was largest developer of affordable housing in NYC including LeFrak City in Queens. Upset with NYC politics, he looked across the Hudson River for more favorable development opportunities. Where some saw a dump, he saw “Wall Street West”. The $10 billion project led by real-estate tycoon and Simon Property Group who would go on to own the Newport Centre. Look at the current average rent in Newport, let’s just say his bet has paid off.
Phase 2: 1986 – 2015
Americas economy has turned for the better and would pave the way for decades of underrepresented growth and redevelopment. With the explosion of construction in Jersey City and it’s Hoboken neighbor, especially within the last ten to fifteen years, many companies relocated to the area. Along with businesses, even more people began relocating to the Jersey City area, especially after 9-11. All this combined with an incredible mass transit system, a unique variety of mixed use buildings and logistical location made the area boom.
Phase 3: 2016 – Present
But with a boom, there are always downfalls. Despite this being a success story for developers, corporations and real-estate companies, it is also a cautionary tale of gentrification, luxury condos, beautiful brownstones, converted warehouse space and Victorians that are strikingly similar to Brooklyn. Most locals are familiar with JC’s sections of Newport, Jersey City Heights, downtown, but Jersey City’s Bergen-Lafayette and Journal Square neighborhood are starting to pop. With great mass transit options including a light rail station, commuting to the city super quick. The prices of homes are considerably less than other sections of Jersey City that we previously mentioned. All of these factors are making this area popular for singles and more recently families.
Talk about diversity, everyone is getting their slice of the American pie. Jersey City is clearly one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world. JC boasts a large amount of immigrants from India, Vietnam, China, Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Italy, Egypt, Morocco, Dominican Republic, Nigerian, Kenyan and African-Americans.
The Art Scene
Green Villain is the largest mural to be found in the city. The artist Distort, brings modern beauty and incredible energy to his work. Jersey City has become a mecca for almost every type of art imaginable. From street art to posh galleries, there is a little bit for everyone’s taste. Local artist compare the area to Chelsea in the early 2000’s, but with more space.
“Not all change is great. It’s beautiful to see people out more with a greater sense of community, this melting pot that is New Jersey. It’s an odd feeling in one way, I’m excited to bear witness to all the changes and at the same time, It’s a little sad in its own way, Jersey City has become slightly unrecognizable.”
We hit the streets and asked locals what they thought of the current state of progress. First we asked Dominican-American, Christina Sosa from “The Heights” section her thoughts. While she acknowledges reduced crime, the local economy improving, first class restaurants she also added “Not all change is great. It’s beautiful to see people out more with a greater sense of community, this melting pot that is New Jersey. It’s an odd feeling in one way, I’m excited to bear witness to all the changes and at the same time, It’s a little sad in its own way, Jersey City has become slightly unrecognizable.”
We then headed to Grove Street, where we met Nam Phu (who works for Pernod Ricard) as he was leaving a restaurant. Nam is a Vietnamese-American and a lifelong resident of Jersey City. “My parents came to this country as refugees fleeing from their homeland but were able to care and support myself and my five siblings in Jersey City, which allowed us to accomplish our education and professional goals.” Despite the increased coast of living there is nowhere else I would rather be.
“My parents came to this country as refugees fleeing from their homeland but were able to care and support myself and my five siblings in Jersey City, which allowed us to accomplish our education and professional goals.”
During the early 2000’s (enter the dot com, stock trading yups) while Hoboken and waterfront area of JC were increasing in property value, not much was happening in Bergen-Lafayette or Journal Square. However, now that those waterfront sections are all bought up its these inland areas that have seen increases in property value and most recent construction activity. The vast majority of the building in the “sixth borough” have fantastic bones and in certain cases you can even get a small yard, I bet you’re not going to get that on the other side of the river. Just saying.
Neighborhoods in Jersey City
Downtown – $684,200
The Waterfront – $651,100
The Heights – $370,100
Hackensack River Front – $305,000
Journal Square – $299,400
McGinley Square – $290,200
West Side – $252,100
Greenville – $232,300
Bergen-Lafayette – $209,500
*Based on median ZHVI (Zillow House Value Index 2018)
Current and Future Buildings
In 2014, Paul Fireman proposed a 95-story mega tower for Jersey City that would include a casino. The project, which endorsed by Mayor Steve Fulop, would cost an estimated $4.6 billion. In February 2014, NJ State Senate President Stephen Sweeney argued that Jersey City, among other distressed cities, could benefit from a casino—were construction of one outside of Atlantic City eventually permitted by New Jersey. Personally, that sounds like it will never be approved and be in limbo like the “bridge to nowhere” Lehman Brothers’ project Xanadu. Yikes, just had a flashback of being on the Turnpike or Route 3 and seeing that hideous building. Until that 95 story monstrosity is finalized and built, 99 Hudson will be the tallest building in the sixth borough. The Kushner brothers (KBE) just completed a 54 story building called “Journal Squared” in Journal Square (obviously) they also just broke ground on second tower that will be 72 stories and has plans for a third tower.
Where do we go from here?
With all this diversity, opportunity, artistic culture, restaurants, and panoramic views the growth in Jersey City clearly shows no sign of slowing down. At this rate most experts agree that Jersey City will surpass Newark as the most populated city in NJ in the 2020 census. If you have visited the area in 2018, you have noticed the cranes over Jersey City looks like Dubai in 2004. Upon completion, 99 Hudson Street (in image) will be by far the tallest building in New Jersey, dwarfing the nearby Goldman Sachs building, but who feels bad for Goldman. It’s New Jersey’s way of telling New York, we have arrived!
Written by Seth Goldstein & Christopher Moretti