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Hoboken's new pedestrian street attracts residents out for a sunny day stroll
November 20, 2011
As warmer temperatures prevail this afternoon, Hoboken residents took their inaugural strolls down Hoboken's first pedestrian street, Garden Street Mews, located on Garden Street, between 14th and 15th Streets.

"Very cute," Julianne Apa, 24, a Bergen County resident said, as she and a friend utilized the cobble-stoned street on Sunday afternoon.

Mayor Dawn Zimmer, along with several city council members and other officials gathered, on Nov. 10 for the official ribbon cutting, and Bijou Properties, who designed the walkway, said they plan to stage community events including art shows and farmers markets.

"People love to live in and visit Hoboken because it's a great place to walk, and making our City even more pedestrian friendly is good for families and good for businesses," Mayor Dawn Zimmer said on the City's Web site. "Our streets are by far the largest public space we have, and the Garden Street Mews is a reminder that we need to think of them as true shared space that improves the lives of all our residents."

Garden Street Mews' street bed has been repaved with cobblestones dating back more than 100 years, according to the City's Web site. Rows of trees were planted, street furniture and street lighting was also installed.

"Open space is important for everyone, particularly in urban environments. We are looking forward to the Garden Street Mews growing into a place where people can meet, interact and enjoy the outdoors," Larry Bijou stated on the City's Web site.
Garden Street Lofts wins gold award for going green
February 02, 2010
Back in 1919, the structure at 1425 Garden St., in Hoboken was a storage warehouse and factory for processing coconuts so as to be used for shredded toppings on Hostess snowball cupcakes. Plenty has changed. As of last year, the building was an environmentally friendly, mixed residential high-rise called Garden Street Lofts, with 30 luxury condominiums and a sedum ground-covered, grassy roof for carbon monoxide emissions.

Outside the building’s façade Tuesday morning, Garden Streets Lofts developer Larry Bijou was congratulated by officials from Hoboken, Hudson County and the state for his green construction. The U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainable buildings, recently designated the building of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification. It’s the first mixed residential high-rise in New Jersey.

The building – which has also been recognized as a top green project by the Sustainable Building Industry Council – was reconstructed in 2009 in an effort to receive LEED silver certification based on a meticulous checklist of energy efficiency requirements.

“Saving our heritage buildings is important to preserving our culture in Hoboken,” said Bijou, who served as emcee.

Florence Block, executive director of the U.S. Green Building Council’s state chapter, said that New Jersey-based companies can apply online for a new state grant that provides training in a governmental effort to “retool the workforce into a green environment.”

Hudson County executive Thomas DeGise, Brandy Forbes, director of community development and newly elected freeholder Anthony Romano also spoke. DeGise said Garden Street Lofts “should be a boilerplate for building anything from here on in.”

Bijou told the Journal he is considering several projects for the future, especially turning a parking garage at 1415 Park Ave., into a three-in-one mixed use residential, retail and education facility.
Garden Street Lofts
February 20, 2009
As the story goes, when developer Lawrence Bijou petitioned the Hoboken zoning board about variances to transform a 1919 coconut processing plant on 14th and Garden Sts. into a LEED-certified green building with a zinc-clad addition hanging over the top of the existing structure, they looked confused.

"Why are you doing all this?" one zoning official asked, making it clear that Hoboken had never seen anything like it.

Bijou, a veteran of New York City real estate who moved to New Jersey in 2003 after deciding to make Hoboken the recipient of his vision for green building, made a quick joke and then said, "Because I have to."

What he meant, what every developer dead serious about changing the way we live means, is that this is the only way to build if we want to protect our own health and the health of our environment.

What Bijou didn't have to do, but did anyway, was source Ipe wood from Bolivia, bamboo floors from China, find the exact kind of cobblestone to refurbish the street out front, completely restore the coconut plant's exterior to its original beige brick coloring and hire one of New York City's top architecture firms to design the building inside and out.

"By now, we should all know that green is the future of building," says Bijou, who walks prospective buyers around the building himself. "My goal is to actually do it. This is my first project of this magnitude and I wanted the best."

While I've heard that from most developers, I haven't heard it confirmed by most architects. Gregg Pasquarelli of Sharples, Holden and Pasquarelli (SHoP Architects) actually took the job because of Bijou's vision and integrity.

"Every time we came up with something, Larry [Bijou] asked if it could be done better," says Pasquarelli. "We designed a similar building called the Porterhouse in the Meatpacking District. Repeating styles was not the direction we wanted to go in as a firm. But Larry's commitment to sustainability and great design made this project different."

Bijou, sitting in the construction trailer across the street from his building, wears sweaters, jeans and construction boots. He's as honest a person as you could meet. When asked about the Val Cucina custom-made eco-friendly kitchens, Dornbracht faucets imported from Germany, Miele dishwashers and the air-filtration system pumping clean air into each unit, he half-grimaces.

"There's a downside to doing anything for the first time and wanting it to be really good," he says. "I just let these architects go and they just went. I was writing check after check for higher- end product after higher-end product."

The result is New Jersey's first LEED-certified silver condominium and already the recipient of a national green award. It's also one of Hoboken's most interesting structures. As you approach the 29-unit boutique development from Washington St. to the east, the pale zinc outer shell of the building appears to grab the brick structure in a bite or pinch. Small brown square openings, lined in Ipe wood, peer at you like eyes. These are apartment terraces. Architect Pasquarelli calls them "cocoons." Wrapped in dark wood, they feel like hunting lodges in the city.

Inside, the apartments in the 42,888-square-foot five-story original building are lofts, with each floor having a one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom. Linked by hallways and the same elevators to the older building, the apartments in the seven-story 35,054-square-foot newer structure are oversized two-bedrooms. Two duplex penthouses on the upper floors have giant terraces with corner hot tubs.

"If these apartments were in Tribeca, they would be four times the price," says Irene ðPerello, a longtime Hoboken agent with Hudson Place Realty, who has the exclusive on Garden Street Lofts. "We have 1,140-square-foot one-bedrooms for $675,000. I'd put this quality up against any Manhattan project."

If the building has a knock on it, it's that its back abuts an above-ground parking facility. Buyers don't mind, says Perello, as back-of-building units sold quickly.

Closings in the building began last month. Vince Visceglia and Caroline Russo spent the second night in the building with their 20-month-old son. They looked all over Hoboken, including brownstones, row houses and larger condominiums, before deciding on Garden Street Lofts.

"Green wasn't a consideration before we saw this," says Russo. "Now, it's part of our lives. The final decision was based on design and finishes, though. Everything feels top-of-the-line."

Her husband, who had his heart set on living in the suburbs, says the couple's decision to stay in Hoboken became clear as they understood more about living green.

"We can't protect our son from everything bad that's in the air," says Russo, "but here we created a safe haven that is a cutting-edge non-toxic environment."

Today, in front of the building, Hoboken city workers repair cobblestone streets using stone Bijou purchased so the new street matched the old. Inside, technicians from Del-Sano Contracting Corp., a Union, N.J.-based general contracting company, put finishing touches on the lobby and 8,100-square-foot retail space. Bijou Properties, helmed by Bijou with help from Dave Gaber, still seeks a tenant for the space.

"It's big enough for an Apple store," says Gaber, a recent NYU-real estate master's graduate. "If Williamsburg can have one, why shouldn't we?"

Bijou is just getting started in Hoboken. He refurbished a commercial building across the street from Garden Street Lofts, leasing retail to a New York Sports Club, a bank and a pharmacy. He also owns a lot across the street, waiting on financing before building a high-performance green mini-tower with microturbines to ease electrical output, solar panels and 400-car fully-robotic gargage, another New Jersey first.

"We're working to put a charter school in the tower and generate our own electricity," he says. "I came to Hoboken because of its proximity to New York, the better views and the fact everyone who lives here loves this city."

Acquiring land is what Bijou Properties does. Over a one-year period, it acquired more than 10 warehouse properties along Hoboken's 15th and 16th Sts. Initially wanting to develop these blocks into restoration projects, it sold the land to a national developer. Armed with capital, it completed Garden Street Lofts and bought waterfront property on the Hoboken side of the Hudson.

"Originally, I just wanted to restore old buildings and add character to these streets," says Bijou. "Hoboken is a young city with very intelligent, future-minded people. An investment in green is an investment in their future. They know that and so do we."
Recycling, and Selling, Some History
January 23, 2009
CONCEIVED back when the residential market was healthy, two warehouse-to-loft conversions in New Jersey are now being marketed in Hoboken and Jersey City, and a third is under way in Newark

Two of the projects are condominiums and one is a rental, but all are being promoted as chic, energy-efficient designs that recycle buildings of distinctive historical value.

“Reuse of old industrial buildings located in urban areas is highly desirable,” said Peter Primavera, of the Urban Land Institute, “from a planning point of view — and to buyers.”

Residential real estate experts in the state say that demand for converted lofts in urban areas — especially those near a mass transit “hub” — was surging before the bank and economic crises hit, and most predict it will swell again as the overall economy recovers.

Right now, according to the developers, sales at the two condos are tepid.

“Well, it’s the worst possible timing,” said Lawrence Bijou, the managing partner of Bijou Properties, which is just now opening the Garden Street Lofts in Hoboken. “But we have sold almost half of 30 units, which I say is pretty good.”

In Jersey City, where 22 new condos are nearly complete at “m650 Flats,” a five-story conversion of a century-old structure, six units have sold in three months (three of them to members of the Carrino family, which owns Brunelleschi Construction, the building developer).

The Newark building, a few blocks from City Hall and the Prudential Center sports and entertainment arena, had also been planned as condominiums. Early last year, Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark cited the prospect of the first condos downtown as evidence that the city’s revitalization effort was gaining traction.

But prospects for bank financing disappeared with the national economic crisis, said the project’s developer, Michael Saltzman, whose company is called Newwork. Construction began in late October to create 67 rental units instead. Mayor Booker said at the groundbreaking that it made him “very proud.”

The Newark building — which like the Hoboken and Jersey City structures lay vacant for years before being eyed for renewal — was originally a jewelry factory. Known as the Richardson Building, it has stood for a century at the corner of Columbia and Green Streets, and it gets a mention in Philip Roth’s novel “American Pastoral,” which is set in historic Newark.

The building has one jaw-dropping feature: a six-story-tall steel spiral staircase that stands in an open central atrium. The elements turned the staircase rusty, but that deterioration will be halted, as plans call for a skylight roof and a small courtyard around the central spiral.

“It will be a natural gathering place, a social center for residents,” said Brendan Murray, the chief executive of Tekton Development, which is creating Richardson Lofts.

Tekton is recycling materials, using “green” techniques, and installing energy-efficient features throughout the building, in a bid for a “silver” rating from the United States Green Building Council, which issues certifications based on LEED standards — for Leadership in Energy and Energy Design. This would be a first for Newark.

The Garden Street Lofts building in Hoboken is headed for certification as the first silver-rated residential building in the Jersey waterfront area. A five-story brick structure where coconuts were once processed, the building was retrofitted with a two-story zinc-faced addition.

It offers one-, two- and three-bedroom units, some with decks — and two two-story penthouses on the top floors, one with a 1,400-square-foot terrace with a hot tub. Prices start in the mid-$600,000s and go up to $2 million for the premier penthouse unit.

“So far, we haven’t had to lower prices,” said Mr. Bijou, the developer. “There are actually some interesting buyers out there. We’ve seen several sports figures, and the ambassador to the United Nations from Sudan came by.”

At the m650 Flats building in Jersey City, the builders said they used green techniques and material but are not striving for the LEED rating. They are going for high-impact style, said Anthony Carrino, the 30-year-old son of Alfonso Carrino, who created the Brunelleschi Construction Company after recognizing the potential of a decrepit structure on Montgomery Street.

Anthony Carrino, whose cousin John Carrino is also a builder and a buyer at m650, said with a shrug: “The market is what it is. But we are aiming for the buyer who wants something that can’t be found anywhere else.”

At their “boutique” building, a block up, and across Montgomery from the huge Beacon condominium complex, the Carrinos carefully deconstructed a brick and bluestone wall at the street level, reusing the brick and stone to create Old World masonry in the style of Filippo Brunelleschi, the Renaissance sculptor and architect, in the condos.

That is paired with ultramodern Euro-style fixtures for the interiors, environment-friendly bamboo flooring, and a “virtual doorman” service.

A robotic parking garage was installed at street level in the building, which has served variously as a livery, a warehouse, an Army-Navy surplus center — and even, at one point, the fake storefront site for an F.B.I. sting, according to Alfonso Carrino.

“I should know the history around here,” Mr. Carrino said. He was born at the Jersey City Medical Center, the complex that is now the Beacon condos.