A 110-year-old warehouse in Jersey City, N.J. is getting a second life as an apartment community.

Modera Lofts in Jersey City, N.J. is being rehabbed by Mill Creek Residential Trust.
Modera Lofts in Jersey City, N.J. is being rehabbed by Mill Creek Residential Trust.

The Modera Lofts will include more than 350 apartment units when it opens this fall. Although it was abandoned for several decades, the building was in pretty good shape and the team at Dallas-based Mill Creek Residential Trust saw an opportunity to develop the building into a unique community in the city’s Powerhouse Arts District.

In addition to residential space, the building will also feature about 5,000 square-feet of retail space and artist studios, says Russell Tepper, senior managing director of Mill Creek's northeast region.

One of the reasons the firm was attracted to the adaptive-reuse project was to gain a presence in the rapidly-growing Jersey City market more quickly than it would have been able to do with new construction.

“Most high-rise towers probably take two years to develop,” Tepper says. “We will have started and completed construction here approximately in six months less time, which is important. You want to be able to bring your community to market sooner.”

Jersey City is accessible to Manhattan but is a more affordable living option. Rents in the Jersey City area are as much as half the cost of rents in Manhattan, Tepper says. However, Mill Creek isn’t doing the rehab in lieu of building in New York.

“We are also looking at opportunities in Manhattan and the other boroughs,” Tepper says. “The metrics for development in New York are just very different than that in Jersey City. Jersey City still offers a little more economical opportunity for those seeking to rent yet be very close to Manhattan.”

The building is located about two blocks away from a local transit station. Manhattan is two stops, about 15 minutes, away on the train. It provided a great location for apartments and the team saw it as a valuable opportunity, Tepper says. 

Additionally, the building was completely enclosed, which is rare for many adaptive reuse projects. And while all of the glass windows were intact, they’re a bit smaller than a loft-style apartment would need. So they’re all being replaced with the building’s new design.

“We are creating 40% more daylight into the building than had existed before,” Tepper says. “The windows are purposely fairly tall in order to take advantage of the ceilings in the building.”

And while the windows were an easy fix, Tepper says like most adaptive reuse projects, this one had some unique surprises. The floors of the building were originally designed in a sloped manner in case of a fire. The middle of the building’s floors were higher than the perimeter so the water would drain to the outskirts of the building.

“There was an average 6 or 7 inches from the middle of the floors to the exterior,” Tepper says. “We had to raise and level all of the floors to be conducive for residential.”

The first group of residents is expected to move in this September.