Although Jackie Urgo is a lifelong resident of Manhattan, her family has ties to Jersey City going back decades, to when they owned the popular Schapiro’s wine shop in the state’s second largest city.
Redefining and reshaping the Jersey City market and skyline have been a passion of Urgo’s for over 20 years. Her firm, The Marketing Directors, is behind the development of 99 Hudson, which, when completed, will be the tallest residential building in Jersey City.
We caught up with Urgo to talk about Jersey City’s remarkable transformation and her role in re-shaping its future.
BuzzBuzzNews: How did the great-granddaughter of Schapiro’s wines founder get a taste for real estate?
Jackie Urgo: Having brought new developments to market in Jersey City for over 25 years, it has been exciting to watch the neighborhood evolve and flourish. Each new building Downtown has helped bring new life to a neighborhood formerly marred with parking lots and empty warehouses, replacing them with communities, retail opportunity, and new residents to patronize them.
Jersey City follows suit with Brooklyn, having transitioned from a ‘Manhattan alternative’ to a brand, all while keeping its own personality. I’m looking forward to watching the boom continue and spread to other parts of Jersey City.
BBN: At the recent Jersey City Summit, some developers felt that Jersey City was unlike any other market in the country. For example, the level of development taking place, Jersey City's population growth and the number of new businesses now calling Jersey City home. How true do you think that is? What makes Jersey City unique?
JU: Jersey City has reclaimed its title of ‘Most Diverse City in America’ which is evidenced everywhere from its arts scene to specialty shops to its many cultural programs and events. Couple this with local laws that encourage small businesses and Jersey City offers a variety of unique cultural dining and shopping experiences that appeal to many.
BBN: What are the biggest obstacles in selling Jersey City to both investors and new residents?
JU: The Hudson River! Particularly when it comes to New Yorkers who are unaware just how close Jersey City is, being on the other side of the river is a big obstacle to overcome. However, it is an eye opener for many when they realize Jersey City is five minutes from Downtown Manhattan and fifteen minutes from Midtown Manhattan with vibrant neighborhoods and each with their own unique character.
BBN: Do you think it shortchanges Jersey City to sell it merely as a more affordable option to Manhattan and Brooklyn?
JU: Absolutely – each location offers a different style of living. Jersey City residents have grown to love it for its walkability and convenience, neighborhood-ran parks, charming streetscapes, easy access to Manhattan and Brooklyn, all with less hustle and bustle. Lower rent and not paying the city tax is just an added perk!
Photo: 99 Hudson Street
BBN: When completed, 99 Hudson Street will be the tallest residential building in the state. Has there been any opposition to developing such a tall building in Jersey City? What has the process of working on 99 Hudson with China Overseas America been like?
JU: 99 Hudson is a visionary development that will transform the Jersey City skyline. It’s hugely impactful for the greater neighborhood and there will surely be many opinions. That being said, COA has been an exemplary partner and collaborator. Their professionalism, attention to detail, and keen interest in the local community is super motivating.
BBN: Many long-time residents of Jersey City are concerned about the gentrification of the city. With all the new high-end construction taking place, the fear is they will be eventually priced out of their neighborhood after ten, twenty or more years of living there. As a resident, how important is it to embrace the neighborhood’s history while at the same time trying to bring jobs, attract investors and new residents?
JU: It is important to develop responsibly. Jersey City’s government has had affordable housing move higher in its agenda throughout its gentrification by working with developers to include affordable housing components or contribute to affordable housing funds.
Developers are also giving back by providing new neighborhood amenities as part of redevelopment including performing arts venues, green spaces, and a new school. I appreciate that Jersey City’s administration has continued to focus on locally owned small businesses, recently awarding $25,000 in grants to two local businesses and announcing a $10,000,000 loan program for entrepreneurs.
BBN: What is your vision for Jersey City? What mark do you hope to leave on the neighborhood?
We approach every development from a localized perspective and with such a rich culture and DNA, Jersey City is a really special community. The Marketing Directors has been shaping the skyline for almost three decades. We have a unique sense of pride about our efforts and if we can help foster even greater community, then we can take extra satisfaction in our long-term impact.
BBN: Has Jersey City finally arrived? Is the building boom starting to wind down?
JU: The words ‘up and coming’ haven’t fit the description of Downtown Jersey City in years – it is officially a destination. Development Downtown continues, but it is also spreading to other neighborhoods like Journal Square where our clients are breaking ground on over a thousand new luxury rentals.