In December 2020, Mayor Steven Fulop announced an inclusionary zoning ordinance to advance affordable housing throughout Jersey City. The regulation now allots 10 to 15 percent of affordable housing in new developments in the city, which does not allow developers to opt-out.
This proposal inspired New Jersey developer Steve Mann, founder of REI Capital Investments, and Khawar Malik, REI partner, to launch a five-story residential building project to support underserved residents of the Ward A community. The ambitious developer, who emphasizes the importance of giving back to his local community, already had possession of approved development plans to build six two-bedroom units (over parking) in a three-story buildout.
Today, Mann’s latest project—located at 1768 John F. Kennedy Boulevard—strives to provide affordable housing for local “heroes,” including teachers, healthcare professionals, firefighters, police officers, EMS personnel, and veterans. Currently, Mann’s project does not meet the threshold for this new inclusionary housing ordinance. As a result, it will only have 12 units instead of the required 15-unit threshold.
Mann and Malik are joined by New Jersey city planner Alexander Dougherty of Dougherty Planning & Development, LLC, a rising star in the industry. Dougherty has advised the developer regarding essential planning techniques, case law, and a progressive buildout design that would strike positive enhancement for the greater community.
“The once forgotten spine of the city, Kennedy Boulevard, provides a collaborative development of retention within the city,” Dougherty says. “Two major NJ Transit bus routes travel along this corridor, with two additional major bus routes running parallel to Kennedy Boulevard. Both of which converge just one block away from this site, making it particularly suitable for additional units that are hyper-focused on retention for our local heroes.”
Getting to Know Developer Steve Mann
In addition to being a Jersey City native, Mann is also a talented developer with an impressive track record. He is the owner and operator of multiple businesses and has previous experience in private equity, having developed several large-scale residential units. Mann tells us more about his inspiration behind this project:
“In my private equity days, I assisted in planned developments on the capital side. Then, I fell in love with structuring deals and wanted to bring my skill set home. Since 2012, I’ve planned and developed several properties in New Jersey and advised in the planning and funding of more than 500 residential units and several hotel acquisitions.”
About the Kennedy Boulevard Project
The residential building stands in Ward A in the Greenville neighborhood on Kennedy Boulevard. The location is critical because transit options are accessible. The neighborhood is a 20-minute drive to downtown Manhattan and is walkable to four major bus routes/terminals in Hudson County. Grand Central Station is also just under an hour’s commute.
Mann strongly believes the area is suitable for residents, “It is a place with a ton of charm that seems to have been forgotten by the city. The neighborhood is teeming with potential and just needs a very progressive, socially responsible project to kick it off.”
The project has been in the works for just over a year now. It was originally approved for six units. This included five parking stalls with no affordable housing requirements. Mann then elected to double the density and add features such as more bike racks, electric vehicle charging stations, benches, and even a generous green roof concept.
“Previously, we were approved for six units, two bedrooms, two bathroom build-outs, three floors, five parking spots, and six bike racks,” Mann explains. “Our team of Rosemary Stone-Dougherty Esq., Alexander Dougherty, John McDonough, Dynamic’s Traffic Planners, Joe Staiger & Connor Hughes presented the development application to be heard in front of the Zoning Board of Adjustment.”
The project’s scope at its core is to add two more mirrored floors going up from the prior approval for the six additional units. However, the building and its intent are nothing reflective of the prior approval. “This is so much more than the typical square box apartment buildout,” Mann adds.
“The days of your typical buildout are gone,” Alexander Dougherty says. “Today, it’s about putting the community first and [Mann] understands what type of development that is.”
When asked about the expected completion date, Mann predicts, “We were currently in front of the Zoning Board of Adjustment in mid-February where we had unanimously been approved with a 7-0 vote. We estimate breaking ground in August 2022 with estimated completion by summer 2023.” This was a project spawned from great policy initiatives, a strong moral compass to develop for a community, and the raw talent to break down the city fabric to see untapped potential. Mann and Malik are currently exploring other local communities to build responsibly.
“The project itself is a prime example of what a local builder embracing green and smart growth concepts can do in a municipality like Jersey City, that is to construct a mid-rise quality housing building to help revitalize the JFK corridor,” Rosemary Stone-Dougherty says. “This building will provide an aesthetic improvement to the skyline and area and provide new housing opportunities.”
“REI Capital Markets successfully expanded its real estate holdings with the recent approval for a new five-story multifamily residential development in Jersey City, NJ,” says McDonough. “The project will deliver 12 dwelling units and modern amenities, including enclosed vehicle parking, bicycle parking, and a green roof. In addition, each unit will be well-appointed to provide a high-quality, contemporary living environment reflective of the REI Capital Markets brand.”