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Harborside, Mack-Cali’s once-nondescript commercial campus on Jersey City’s Hudson River waterfront, is readying for the post-pandemic era with major infrastructure upgrades and striking new lifestyle amenities for health- and wellness-conscious office tenants.
The six-building complex is home to 4.3 million square feet of offices that account for the lion’s share of Mack-Cali’s total 6.8 million square-foot portfolio. Most are in the interlocked buildings known as Harborside 1, 2 and 3.
Previously associated with back-office space, they’re nearing completion of more than $100 million in improvements aimed at drawing a more diverse tenant roster for headquarters use and better integrating the commercial buildings into the thriving Jersey City community around them.
“We’ll be much more proactive in pursuing tenants from Manhattan,” said senior vice president of leasing Ed Guiltinan. Realty Check readers long knew him as top leasing honcho of Rockefeller Group, where he played a key role in repositioning that firm’s Sixth Avenue towers, including the former Time + Life Building.
Guiltinan was recruited to Mack-Cali last October as part of the publicly traded developer’s full-court press to revitalize and re-tenant Harborside. About 40 percent of its office space is currently available. However, the figure is misleadingly high since it includes 420,000 square feet at Harborside 1, which was kept mostly vacant as it underwent a sea-change in improvements. Also on board are crack CBRE leasing teams, including a Manhattan group headed by regional CEO Mary Ann Tighe.
Mack-Cali took the Harborside plunge in 1996 when it bought buildings 1, 2 and 3 -– 1920s structures that were the Pennsylvania Railroad’s New York terminus prior to the construction of Penn Station in Manhattan.
Although functional, the complex soon became dated as newer properties offered better amenities and more sophisticated infrastructure. Friends who worked at Harborside years ago recalled a joyless, “nowhere” atmosphere lacking in shopping, eating and service options.
Mack-Cali started a “cool factor” turnaround about four years ago. In 2019, it installed a high-quality, District Kitchen food hall in Harborside 3. It added attractive artwork throughout the complex, upgraded lobbies and created new pedestrian corridors. Lounges were given the industrial-aesthetic treatment in homage to the area’s past.
A 1980s-vintage glass-roof atrium between buildings 2 and 3 is being warmed up with new seating. A big Whole Foods store –- which is also an office tenant -– will open soon at a different building at the site.
The redevelopment of Harborside 1, which will open to tenants by year’s end, is the icing on the cake. The eight-story building has a new facade, a redesigned lobby with direct access to indoor retail chosen to support Harborside tenants, and a fourth-floor tenants’ terrace with views of Manhattan and the river. The building aims to achieve LEED-Gold certification for new, energy-conserving mechanicals.
Guiltinan said Harborside 1’s 65,000-square-foot floor plates, high ceilings and open views should appeal especially to media and creative tenants, in contrast to the more traditional corporate appeal of 1-million square-foot Harborside 5 to the west.
CBRE’s Tighe said the repositioning “is designed to meet this moment. The virtually column-free, large floors” and “waterfront-facing light-filled spaces” accommodate a broad range of uses.” Current Harborside tenants include Omnicom, Whole Foods’ regional offices, E*Trade, Brown Brothers Harriman and Arch Insurance. Asking rents are in the low $40s to low $50s per square foot, Guiltinan said.
Meanwhile, Mack-Cali is making Harborside more welcoming to local residents as well as to tenants. (The company also owns apartment buildings adjacent to the office sites). Brooklyn-born open-air food market Smorgasburg will open this summer at a parking lot site. The eastern side of Hudson Street, which runs parallel to the office buildings, is being turned into a pedestrian plaza with seating, a beer garden and what Guiltinan called “fun things” starting in June.
We reported in January 2019 that premier caterer Great Performances –- which serves the Plaza Hotel grand ballroom and Jazz at Lincoln Center -– was moving from Hudson Square to a much larger facility in the Bronx. The 41,000-square-foot commitment later swelled to 51,000 square feet. And last week, after a $7.7 million buildout, owner Liz Neumark and state and city officials cut the ribbon on the new home in the redeveloped Bruckner Building, a former factory at 2417 Third Ave.
The facility includes a state-of-the-art, 19,000-square-foot kitchen, three times larger than the original, as well as a warehouse, offices, training space and the nonprofit Sylvia Center for educating kids in the connection between food and health.
“It’s an exciting new chapter in our 40-year history,” Neumark said, that expresses optimism “in our future, that of the Bronx and of the city’s hospitality sector as a whole” in the pandemic’s wake.
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