by Steve Dwyer
Call it a social-impacted development on steroids—even placemaking at its pinnacle. Riverton, a $2.5 billion 418-acre riverfront project located in Sayreville, N.J., represents the next generation of commercial real estate dubbed as “experiential mixed-use” or an “urbanburb” where six or seven uses are curated on one large site.
Urbanburb markets itself as a suburb offering an urban lifestyle, and North American Properties (NAP) is in the process of capitalizing on its power and potential. The group is planning to move forward with Riverton by offering a mix of retail, restaurants, office space, hotels with resort-inspired services, parks and marina.
NAP partnered with local company PGIM Real Estate for an updated plan, which was initially approved by state and local authorities in 2014. At the time, the project also obtained financial support from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) through the Economic Redevelopment and Growth Program. The developers are counting on NJEDA’s contribution for Riverton’s new version, designed by Cooper Robertson.
Urbanburb was hatched after the NAP team visited hometowns in the area (including Montclair, Summit, Spring Lake, Princeton, Westfield, Red Bank, Asbury Park and Hoboken) for inspiration. Mark Toro, NAP’s managing partner, detailed the story behind the billion-dollar project, which will replace the former National Lead Paint company that had been abandoned for decades.
Boston and Chicago are other cities that have redeveloped former industrial waterfront sites and turned them into modern, mixed-use buildings and attractive public spaces.
Riverton is poised to provide an unparalleled opportunity to serve the New York/New Jersey market, home to 16 million people, providing the next generation of commercial real estate, which is “experiential mixed-use.” The size and scale of Riverton enables the developer the “freedom to curate and deploy a full array of uses that will serve to energize the property 18 hours a day,” Toro remarked in a recent interview.
The property is marked by unprecedented access to the region provided by full interchanges on three highways (35, 9 and Garden State Parkway). Plus, there’s an amenity package unique to any mixed-use property in the region: access to the Raritan River, Raritan Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
Toro said that what makes this effort distinctive is a 400-slip marina that represents the centerpiece of Riverton’s public realm offerings, which will include parks, nature trails and intimate public spaces. The principal says the intent is to “energize the plazas and parks of Riverton with events and activations intended to engage the community and capture their imagination.”
Shops and restaurants will serve the Central Jersey clientele, but the real differentiator is the opportunity for Riverton’s residents, office workers and hotel guests to enjoy an unparalleled level of service and hospitality property-wide.
Community involvement and consensus building is in great supply: Thus far, the community has been engaged in the branding process, while the developer is establishing a dialogue on social channels to poll future guests as to what they prefer to see in the product mix. Those channels provide a unique opportunity to gauge public interest in various aspects of the project and, as a byproduct, build a sense of authorship and ownership among the followers.
Pending approvals and financing, they expect to begin construction in the second quarter of 2018. First phases will include residential-over-retail on Riverton Boulevard, followed by townhomes, office and hotel uses. Completion is scheduled in 2021.