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JERSEY CITY-Located on Monticello Ave. here, this project is the first within the larger Monticello Ave. Redevelopment Plan Area. Whiton–a subsidiary of affordable housing and community revitalization specialist Main Street Development Co.–was designated the redevelopment entity for the entire 96-acre area nine years ago.

Monticello Ave., once one of Jersey City’s primary shopping corridors, has suffered from closed businesses and economic neglect. “Historically, Monticello Avenue had once been a vital economic corridor for Jersey City,” said Mayor Healy.

The rehabilitation project is being managed by the Monticello Community Development Corp., a nonprofit group of local residents, business and property owners and other stakeholders dedicated to revitalizing the area and stimulating economic growth. Healy added that “the revitalization efforts of the Monticello Community Development Corp. are focused on making Jersey City greater and serve as a catalyst for other businesses in the area to restore or renovate their sites.”

According to president Carol Harrison-Arnold and executive director Michelle Massey, MCDC’s goal is to establish a historically preserved neighborhood shopping district with a mix of retail, restaurant and service businesses, as well as arts-related venues and activities that reflect the diversity and strong sense of community that prevail in the area. “The most important thing happening today, besides having this development, is the message it sends to our community, our city and our state that this is an area ripe for redevelopment,” Harrison-Arnold said.

The Monticello’s $30-million Phase I, totaling 225,000 square feet, will comprise 120 rental apartments with 80% market rate and 20% affordable housing, and a total of 25,000 square feet of retail including a supermarket. The overall proposed project–consisting of four phases and more than two million square feet–will create 500-plus jobs over an anticipated five-year period, from the construction process through to completion. The Monticello’s first phase was dedicated on Friday to the late Glenn D. Cunningham, the first African-American Mayor of Jersey City.

“We are pleased to see this important project break ground as it is a critical part of the transformation of Monticello Ave. and the greater Monticello Ave. Redevelopment Area,” said Mayor Healy. “While development has come to a halt around the state and the country, here in Jersey City we continue to break ground and move forward in all areas of the city,” he said, adding that projects like these not only represent the revitalization of the community, but also serve as an economic stimulus for local residents since they create much-needed construction jobs. According to officials at the ground-breaking, Jersey City residents will get first dibs at jobs created by the project.

“It’s wonderful to see growth occurring in our city, and more importantly in this part of the city,” said Senator Cunningham. “I am so excited because when you’re in other parts of the state and you talk about Jersey City, people only think of it as the waterfront. They don’t understand that Jersey City has so many gifts that go beyond the waterfront,” she said. “The people are diverse, the culture is rich and it’s a wonderful place to live. And there are wonderful places to live outside of the waterfront.”

The five-story building in Monticello’s first phase will offer one and two-bedroom, two-bath apartments ranging from 750 to 1,200 square feet, with rents between $600 and $1,700. Whiton president and CEO Michelangelo Russo said the Monticello will be constructed of environmentally-friendly materials to conform to LEED certification. Completion of Phase I is scheduled for 2010.

As envisioned, the entire project will encompass four buildings with over 1,200 residential units–with 20% designated as affordable housing–250,000 square feet of retail space and 2,500 indoor parking spaces, Russo said.

The Monticello will offer a variety of amenities, including a gym, center courtyard, rooftop garden, concierge and housekeeping service, indoor parking, high-speed Internet and a shuttle to and from surrounding commuter hubs. The development is located near all major highways and close to public transportation, offering direct access to lower Manhattan. “We’re talking about quality construction and amenities that sets the tone for what should be, and will be, happening in this neighborhood,” Harrison-Arnold said.

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