167-169 Monticello Ribbon Cutting

The Garden State Episcopal Community Development Corporation (GSECDC) will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony tomorrow morning for what it is heralding as “the first new construction on Monticello Avenue in decades,” a seven-unit affordable condo development with ground-floor retail space.

The project, located where two formerly vacant sites used to sit at 167-169 Monticello Ave., cost GSECDC more than $2.1 million to build, but the group received a number of grants and investments to cover the costs. And despite the economic crisis, still-high local unemployment numbers and tighter lending practices from mortgage companies, GSECDC was able to pre-sell all seven condo units, which went for $95,000 (the three one-bedroom units) and $125,000 (the four two-bedroom units).

“This project posed several challenges due to local market dynamics for commercial construction, fluctuations in the national economy and more stringent mortgage lending practices for our buyers,” GSECDC real estate director John Restrepo says. “However, we were able to persevere and pre-sell all seven units, and are negotiating the commercial lease for a December 1 occupancy by the tenant.”

The ground-floor commercial space will most likely be the home of a new Bergen Communities United job center run by the local nonprofit WomenRising.

In addition to money from the Jersey City Division of Community Development’s HOME Program ($506,000), the Jersey City Affordable Housing Trust Fund ($451,000) and New Jersey Community Capital ($755,000), the Monticello Avenue project received hundreds of thousands in private investment from the PSE&G Foundation, PNC Bank and Blue Cross/Blue Shield, via the state Department of Community Affairs’ Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit program (NRTC), which offers businesses a 100 percent tax credit for investing in the revitalization of low-and moderate-income neighborhoods. The GSECDC executive director Carol Mori says the group will pursue similar financing in future projects.

“We are committed to this neighborhood and look forward to duplicating this effort, including raising additional investment for NRTC activities from local corporations for Monticello Avenue and other places like MLK Drive,” she says.

Like much of the recent affordable-housing construction in Jersey City, the building itself was constructed with environmentally friend materials, and it has attained a LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Building Council.

Housing and neighborhood advocates all hope that this development can anchor the “ongoing revitalization of Monticello Avenue,” as Mayor Jerramiah Healy says.

“With partnerships such as this, and with Main Street Monticello, we have seen a transformation take place that we hope to replicate in other areas of the city,” he adds.

Restrepo points out that this project is proof that high-quality housing can be accessible to Jersey City residents of all stripes.

“This project is located within five blocks of the Beacon luxury development,” he notes, “helping provide folks with more affordable options at comparable quality.”