Sales  ·  Commercial

Veris Sells Jersey City Office Buildings for an Unexpected Profit

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Three office buildings in Jersey City, N.J., known as Harborside Financial Center Plaza sold for $420 million to 601W Companies, something brokers thought wouldn’t happen in today’s rough office market.

Veris Residential offloaded the properties  at 150, 200 and 210 Hudson Street, which span 1.9 million square feet, to 601W Companies as Veris continues to reposition its portfolio toward residential only, according to Hudson County property records. It marks one the biggest office sales so far in 2023, according to brokers CBRE (CBRE).

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Brokers in the deal representing Veris said they chose a buyer who was interested in repositioning and amenitizing the offices, finding the Harborside properties attractive for the retail potential which they plan to use to drive office occupancy. The retail component of the buildings is only about 25 percent leased while the offices are about 60 percent leased.

“They were one of the guys we felt really good about, who could get it done from the equity and the debt side. Borrowing is probably the toughest part of the equation,” CBRE’s Jeffrey Dunne told Commercial Observer. “I think it took a lot of good buyer-seller cooperation to get there, giving them some latitude on time. [There were] just a lot of elements, a perfect storm in some ways. If we had picked the wrong buyer here, it would not have gotten done. It’s a challenge to get an office deal.”

Dunne arranged the sale with fellow CBRE brokers William Shanahan and Roland Merchant as well as Cushman & Wakefield (CWK)’s Andy Merin, David Bernhaut and Frank DiTommaso. Adam Spies— who left C&W for Newmark in Februarywas also part of the sale team. 

Spokespeople for 601W and C&W did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The office properties have potential to attract tenants thanks to its transit access through ferries, light rail and the PATH train, Dunne said, pointing out that other entities are seeing the potential on the waterfront. Whole Foods, for example, is opening a location in one of the Harborside buildings.

The structures today were built in the 1930s to support the operation of the Pennsylvania Railroad and were redeveloped between the 1980s and 2010s. They were acquired by Veris Residential, then known as Mack-Cali Realty Corporation, in 1996 for $293.7 million from AT&T, Commercial Property Executive reported.

“The sale of Harborside 1, 2 [and] 3 represents a significant milestone and a critical step in the company’s transition to a pure-play multifamily company,” Mahbod Nia, CEO of Veris, said in a statement. “The closing of this transaction completes over $2 billion of non-strategic asset sales during the past two years.”

Nia took the helm of Veris in 2021 while it was still known as Mack-Cali after a period of turmoil for the New Jersey-based real estate investment trust. The firm faced a proxy battle in 2019 after investment firm Bow Street Capital pushed to install more members on the board after Mack-Cali turned down a $2.4 billion takeover that would’ve spun its office portfolio into a separate entity, The Real Deal reported.

Bow Street eventually won and got four members on the board, including MaryAnne Gilmartin. Bow Street pushed to get then-CEO Michael DeMarco out, and he left in 2020 with Gilmartin stepping in as interim CEO, amid  plans to quicken its strategy to sell off suburban office holdings to shore up its balance sheet.

The Harborside deal upends expectations for the office market, which has seen big commercial properties in Manhattan selling at huge losses, such as Chetrit Group’s $156 million loss on 850 Third Avenue or the New York Marriott East Side hotel trading $117 million below what it was acquired for by Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation in 2015, to name just a couple.

Mark Hallum can be reached at mhallum@commercialobserver.com.