How one building — and one tenant — could really change Jersey City

By Tom Bergeron
Jersey City | Nov 20, 2018 at 7:00 am
Editor’s Desk

“We call them PHDs, which is ‘Parents Have Dough.’”

“We have something in common: Mitchell Hersh hates both of us.”

“I’ve got a simple rule: If you can’t think of an idea, steal one, it’s a lot easier.”

One-liners … Mike DeMarco always has a ton of them.

And the CEO of Mack-Cali Realty Corp. kept the audience roaring at the Jersey City Summit for Real Estate Investment last week.

DeMarco, however, never jokes about business, or the numbers that make projects work, or the scene that helps a city thrive.

So, on the day Amazon picked Long Island City, Queens, for part of its HQ2 project, he was serious when he said Harborside Tower — the planned, but not yet built 1.2 million-square-foot office masterpiece he is building with SJP Properties in Jersey City — could use a major tech tenant to add to the dynamic of an already-thriving area.

“Twitter, Lyft, Google,” he told the audience during a fireside chat with Steve Pozycki of SJP.

DeMarco is aiming high.

He wants a company that will bring the right workforce.

Afterward, he told ROI-NJ that the sector or the size of the company wasn’t as important as its style. DeMarco said he has to find someone who will bring a workforce that not only will come to Jersey City, but stay in Jersey City.

“We already have a pretty good office market, it’s 22 million square feet,” he said. “The question is: Do we have more 24/7 tenants, people who are here later, people who are using services.

“If they stay late, then restaurants do booming business. If everyone goes home at 4:45 or 5:15, then you’re losing crowd.

“You want that dollar-multiplier effect, you want people to have business meetings, hotel stays, do special events — that brings prosperity.”

The tenant could take the whole building, but DeMarco said he would start with one that took half.

And he thinks he can get one.

“You may get somebody at 1.2 (million square feet), but that’s pretty rare,” he said. “You’re more likely to get someone at 500,000.”

The impact of the right company would be felt immediately.

“It would dramatically change, because it not only would bring a ton of employment, but people would move here,” he said. “The millennials don’t like to commute.

“If their job is in Jersey City, they are going to live here or in Hoboken or Bayonne, and then neighborhoods change. You get 1,000 or 2,000 forward-thinking people come into a town, then restaurants pop up, services get expanded, gyms get done.”

For a city that has grown so much, building an even greater 24/7 work-live-play component would help take it to the next level.

DeMarco, who made moving Mack-Cali to Jersey City one of his first acts when he took over as CEO, said he just needs someone to follow his lead.

“We just need a corporation to make a decision to come over to the waterfront, and say, ‘I want to build, I want a low-cost environment, I want to take advantage of the tax incentives the state has, I can operate much more efficiently and, more importantly, I can recruit, attract and retain top talent because of the logistics,” he said.

That’s no joke.

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