JMF Properties: Focuses on rail station opportunities
BY MARTIN DAKS
JMF Properties has made transit-centered development the backbone of its development business.
JMF President Joseph Forgione alluded to this last year when he broke ground on Quin Sleepy Hollow — a luxury rental community of 212 residences in the Sleepy Hollow section of Plainfield — declaring that a location near a train station is “The single most important amenity a town can have.”
Quin Sleepy Hollow, now under construction, will comprise 212 luxury rental residences set about a half-mile from Plainfield’s Netherwood train station and less than a mile from the city’s Fanwood train station – both on NJ Transit’s Raritan Valley Line. Forgione hopes to attract commuters, young professionals and empty-nesters to the project, which boasts a suite of amenities including a club room with common kitchen, a community room-business center, a theater-multimedia room and a bike-share program.
Further burnishing its transit-friendly credentials, JMF Properties is working with NJ Transit to ensure that a bicycle-share program at Quin Sleepy Hollow will also be available at the Netherwood and Fanwood train stations, so residents can cycle to and from the station easily, either one-way or round trip.
Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp thinks the project is a positive development.
There is no clearer representation of the renaissance that is underway in the city of Plainfield than this bold and innovative project,” Mapp announced at the groundbreaking. “It represents one of the single largest investments in the history of our city. This project will not only transform a large, blighted property into a vibrant residential community, but it will also revitalize a major corridor and spur additional retail and economic development. I am grateful that JMF Properties chose to invest in our resurgent city”
JMF Properties currently has more than 1,700 rental units and 933,000 square-feet of retail space either under construction or in the development phase, all of which Is expected to break ground no later than 2019.
The company’s commitment to transit-friendly properties and the warm reception they ‘re getting is also evident from projects like Clarus Maplewood, a three story “boutique building” in the town of Maplewood. Il opened in October 2017, on the site of a former post office just steps from Maplewood’s train station.
“Today, Clarus Maplewood is 100 percent leased, with ground-floor retail that includes Starbucks. BCB Bank. Abby Haliti Salon, and The Cassidy Bar + Kitchen,’ Forgione noted. Amenities include a fit-ness Center, resident lounge, billiards and a luxury lobby with double sided fireplace.
A transit theme runs through many of JMF’s properties, but the firm makes a point of differentiating them.
There are 166 transit railroad stations in New Jersey and each one has its own character,” Forgione said.
Taking a one-size-fits-all approach to developing properties near them doesn’t work. We’ve built out reputation as a developer by embracing the unique character of each location, working closely with local officials, and creating a development plan that meets consumer demand, enhances the local landscape and improves character of neighborhood, while preserving its desirable qualities.”
That outlook was evident in Estling Village, a community of 100 rental town-hemes that opened in early 2016 in Denville and today is 90 percent occupied. It’s right next to the town’s train station on the Montclair Boonton and the Morristown lines. The project replaced a blighted former factory with a transit-friendly residential development that offers amenities like a fitness center, resident clubhouse with a club room, kitchen and cybecafe, and an onsite bike-share program.
Two other planned developments, Stratton House in Berkeley Heights and Clarus Glen Ridge – highlight JMF’s strategy of delivering on a unified transit related theme without droning into a cookie-cutter approach.
Stratton House, which recently received the township’s planning board approval, will replace the shuttered Kings Food Markets wiih a 150-unit luxury rental community. It will he located only two blocks from the Berkeley Heights train station. which services the Gladstone branch and the Morristown line.
The development is also walking distance to shops, restaurants, a supermarket and retail businesses, according to Forgione.
“It will feature 8,000 square feel of planned amenities for residents, including a fitness center and business center.” he said. “The development includes a courtyard style outdoor plaza and covered parking.”
For the town’s planning board, it was a no brainer. The Stratton House development, which was granted a PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes arrangement,. produces a financially feasible project that meets the township’s design standards,” according to law firm McManimon, Scot-land & Baumann, which serves as Berkeley Heights’ bond counsel and analyzed die PILOT proposal.
The development “generates more tax revenue to the township than the current assessment” or $406,249 annually compared to the current $56,157, according to the firm’s report. Stratton House also “helps the township meet its affordable housing requirements’ it said.
The Clarus Glen Ridge development a 110-unit luxury rental community that’s scheduled TO break ground this fall, will be; located two blocks from the Bay Street train station on NJ Transit’s Montclair-Boonton line.
“Clarus Glen Ridge will provide an alternative to city living, but it is just a short walk to the popular shops, restaurants and entertainment, venues of downtown Montclair,” said Forgone. “We’re planning 8,500 square feet of amenities, including a state-of-the-art fitness center, club room, library, business center, a courtyard-style plaza, and a dog run, as well as a covered parking garage.”
Today’s renters want to be in a location with walkable access to downtown shopping, restaurants, and mass-transportation”, he added.
“What everyone is telling me is they want to be able to walk to get a cup of coffee in the morning, and they want to be near the train station,” Forgione said.
“This has helped create meaningful opportunities for developers who are willing to urbanize appropriate suburban locations with residential and mixed-use developments that satisfy the growing market demand for this type of lifestyle.
‘Transit oriented development is our core business,” he summarized. “More than anything; else, when we begin a new project, we look forward to creating a properly of lasting value that can have a dramatic positive effect on a neighborhood and even an entire municipality.”