Alison Minion recently sat down with Debra Tantleff, vice president of development for Roseland Property Company, and asked her to walk through the numbers. In the first installment of the interview, posted on Aug. 30, they discussed the status of the new retail space. In the following exchange, they address the impact of the new residential development on the greater Morristown community.
Alison Minion: Over 500 new residences have been brought into the Morristown real estate inventory. Please briefly break down that number for us.
Debra Tantleff: The Highlands at Morristown Station is a 217-unit rental development; it opened early this spring, and is already fully-occupied. Next, we have our sister buildings on the Green; 40 Park has 73 condominium units, and the Metropolitan at 40 Park has 130 rental units. Both of those downtown buildings are 60-percent sold [40 Park] or leased [The Metropolitan]. Finally, we’re very proud of our renovation of the historic Vail Mansion, which has been developed into 36 condominium units.
AM: Why so much investment in Morristown?
DT: First, what I said in our discussion of the appetite for retail space also applies to the residential real estate market: There is a strong desire to exist in Morristown. We entered the market in Morristown because we believed in the municipality’s belief in its future. We immersed ourselves in the community, and took it upon ourselves to get in the mindset of the business owner, the resident, the taxpayer.
AM: How did you manage to keep so many development balls in the air?
DT: A significant component in our equation as builders was that we were doing a redevelopment of four major buildings essentially all in the same time frame…the last five years. The development process is a slow-moving one, and all the more so because of the uniquely historic locations we were working with. Also, it worked in our favor as long-term investors in the town to control the pace of the process and to limit the number of new residential units that entered the market at any given time.
AM: How so?
DT: These four buildings represent different segments of the real estate market as far as price points, floor plans, sizes, features. Our aim was to address different niches in the market. We certainly didn’t want to flood the market with too many units of all the same thing. It was paramount to us, as members of the community, that value was sustained. We even staged the releases of product within each building to control the amount of inventory on the market, so as not to devalue Morristown properties. In fact, because of the way we staged our products in town, the median home value in Morristown has increased 27-percent since our first units became available.
AM: You refer to addressing different niches in the residential real estate market. How do you distinguish the buildings, and their respective niches, from one another?
DT: As an example, I like to consider the six-minute walk from the Highlands to The Metropolitan. These are two rental buildings. The Highlands is a younger demographic, largely commuters, a mix of young singles and couples. The Metropolitan’s residents are mid-30s to mid-50s, more established professionals. The units are larger, and more multi-bedroom floor plans are available. These residents love the area, but may not yet feel ready to buy. Our buyers at 40 Park can largely be divided into two groups: young professionals, both single and married, and empty-nesters who are still working and no longer want the burden of a house to maintain. The Residences at Vail Mansion are luxury properties; concierge service and a multimedia theater are among the amenities available to our owners.
AM: You also have buildings in Hoboken and Jersey City. Do you see a migration west from Hudson County to Morris County?
DT: Not really. Morristown is pulling from a totally different group than those who want to live on the waterfront. There are some young singles or couples who’ve moved from Hoboken or Jersey City because they want more space, or because they grew up in the area. But that’s not our target demographic. In fact, this last point is a notable one: most of our residential traffic, across all of our Morristown properties, are clients with Morris County backgrounds.
AM: Can you sum up your interaction with the municipal government during the redevelopment process?
DT: From the beginning, it’s always been a hand-in-hand process with the town. From zoning to infrastructure to design, we’ve taken pains to honor the history and culture of Morristown. Again, our position in the town is no longer as the developer; we are an asset holder, business owner and tenant in the town. We’re all in this together, because we’re all in the same investment: Morristown.
AM: And that applies to your retail space as well?
DT: One-hundred percent. Here’s an example: our cross-marketing efforts include furnishing our condo model units with décor from local vendors. When clients admire the wares, we’re happy to refer them to our retail neighbors, because we want that business to stay in town. We’re here to stay.