PLAINFIELD, NJ - Anyone who regularly travels along South Ave. in Plainfield, between Terrill Rd. and Leland Ave., has watched the progress of JMF Properties' $50 million Quin Sleepy Hollow rental development that will include 212 units.
TAPinto Plainfield caught up with JMF Properties Founder Joseph Forgione to learn more about the project and its timeline to completion. According to the real estate development firm's website, Forgione has more than 25 years of redevelopment and design experience, and the company revitalizes "communities by turning under-utilized areas into remarkable places, where people, businesses, and towns thrive."
Where are you in terms of the grand opening of the project?
We are looking at middle to late spring 2019 to start leasing activities, with summer 2019 move in dates.
Have there been any unexpected challenges or obstacles along the way?
We are about six months behind schedule, in large part due to last year's winter weather. So we're in a catch-up mode now.
How much will NJ Transit delays and cancellations affect renting out the units? How will the fact that there isn’t a peak one-seat ride available affect your project?
There's no doubt that the (off-peak) one-seat ride on the Raritan Valley line has had an impact on property values and attention to sights along the line.
I've been reading how other developers are having a very difficult time because of the issues with NJ Transit as a whole. Hopefully the public won't start to lose more confidence in NJ Transit whereby they're not considering living by the rail. I think all in all, since the eighties New Jersey's biggest problem is transportation, from its road systems, to rail and boat.
Not enough attention has been placed on the rail. I think we've all taken for granted that the railroad is just something that is there, and we see how much more attention has to be brought to fixing the rails. And NJ Transit has not always made it overly friendly to build near the railroad.
There have been other residential and mixed-use projects recently announced in neighboring towns. What impact will they have on your rentals in Plainfield?
What we've done in all our communities is we "overamenitize," so for us, in order to not, I don't want to say have competition because we all have competition and competition is good to make us better, in all of our communities we build an enormous amount of amenities. From our 20-unit job in Maplewood, we have the same amenities; just not as large as we will have in Quin Sleepy Hollow.
In Plainfield's Quin, we will have a club room, theaters, have virtual fitness classes, a meditation and yoga room, and a full fitness center, indoor/outdoor fireplaces with seating, car chargers, bike sharing. That's become a standard for us in delivering buildings.
Other projects take the position that more is more. Our position is less is more, meaning less units and more amenities. Renters are renters by choice; that doesn't just mean they are renting by choice, but that there are a lot of choices where they can rent.
The fact that we have garages, every unit has a large storage space, and enough on-site parking that is not shared with a retailer, I think that we are ahead of the curve in what's to come.
The CLARUS in Maplewood is the first WELL certified building in New Jersey, 14th in the country, and 17th in the world.
(According to its website, the WELL Building Standard is the premier standard for buildings, interior spaces and communities seeking to implement, validate and measure features that support and advance human health and wellness.)
The CLARUS, fully leased since its inception in October 2017, has brought us enormous attention, and we've been asked to come into communities outside of New Jersey to develop in their downtown. I think that there is going to be more of a push away from the waterfront, and I think that communities like Plainfield are a diamond in the rough, and the Quin is something very special, has activated downtown retail, and I think it will have an enormous impact on the community as a whole.
The Quin units will range in size from 900 square feet to 1,200 square feet. Fifty percent of the units will have a garage, and all of the units will have a garage or an exclusive parking spot.
How do you plan to market the apartments, what is your leasing strategy?
You used to take an ad out in newspapers and local magazines, but today social media drives the market. We have a website that will go live, will shortly activate an info@ email available for inquiries, and will prepare an on-site leasing center.
Will the proposed rent rates be the same as when the project was first introduced?
Now we're in a debt period of leasing. So within 30-45 days, the market starts to get alive again, people begin to look at where they want to move, and start looking towards the end of the winter, with a spring / summer move in. Everyone wants to move in before the summer so they can take their vacation, and not have to worry about moving.
So in order to really know where the market is, because it fluctuates, we're going to "comp" the market - what are the rents, what are the fees, are there amenity fees, what are they, are they giving any concessions to rents - a month or two months free - what incentives are out there, and we're going to adjust the rents for Quin accordingly.
So if I gave you rent prices a few years ago, they mean absolutely nothing at this point.
In terms of local contractors, have you been able to utilize any?
Since the inception we engaged a local contractor to remove the asbestos, a demolition contractor, a local trimmer sub-contractor, and a carpenter working on site.
But after that, I think in large part it's because the job is so large, there are very few contractors with 30-man crews out there in this area who can handle this size job. It's not that I'm bashing the local talent, there just aren't that many of the contractors we need out there.
What are your thoughts on rumors of a potential Wawa that would include what’s called a refueling station right next door to Quin Sleepy Hollow?
As someone who travels a lot, I live in the Wawas of the world. If you speak to any major developer, Wawas are great, they encourage it, because people are working later and getting up earlier, and that niche of a c-store really serves the community well.
It almost becomes an amenity to the area, it's a good thing in my opinion, and it speaks to walkability.
I think the competition is great. (There are currently gas stations at both Terrill Rd. and Leland Ave. on South Ave.) Look what it's done to my business, it's forced me to build 10,000 square feet of amenity space at the Quin.
What community partnerships do you plan for the future?
We are working with the Neighborhood House, and we're really supportive of them. I took a tour two and a half years ago, and am heavily invested in helping to support that cause with unsolicited donations because we think it's a special place.
Overall, how would you describe your experience getting your project approved in Plainfield?
The redevelopment process, the site plan process went smoothly. This project couldn't have happened without the current administration that's in place. Mayor Mapp pushed and lobbied for it over and over. Even those that did not believe we were going to do what what we have done, and what we are delivering, I think everyone is happy.
TAPintoPlainfield.net is Plainfield's free online daily newspaper for Plainfield, NJ news. Sign up for our daily eNews and follow us on Facebook, Twitter @PlainfieldTAP, and on Instagram @tapintoplainfield for all of your Plainfield local news.