A Florida-Style Project for the Hudson

This spring, Florida resort style goes on sale in New Jersey.

WCI Communities Inc., a developer that has dotted the coast of Florida with condominium towers featuring lavish interiors and luxurious amenities, will build its first such tower outside the Sunshine State at a Hudson riverfront site in North Bergen. A sales office is to open next month.

The building will have apartments offering not only the kinds of touches that are found in new high-end Manhattan condominiums but also an array of on-site fitness and social venues for residents of the sort that are found in ultraexpensive Florida projects.

Price tags for homes at the Watermark Tower, which will be 12 stories high, with 206 one-, two- and three-bedroom units, will start in the high $600,000's and range to more than $3 million, according to the president of WCI's recently established northeast division, Mitchell C. Hochberg.

Those prices are well above New Jersey standards, even for waterfront apartments, but Mr. Hochberg said the lifestyle to be offered at the Watermark will be something new too.

"The Watermark will redefine the standard of luxury tower living in this area as well as changing the Gold Coast skyline," he said.

WCI spent considerable time searching out a site in affluent Bergen County for the northeastern debut of one of its residential towers, settling on a 4.7-acre parcel directly across the Hudson from 96th Street in Manhattan.

"We wanted to be in Bergen County because of its proximity to Manhattan," Mr. Hochberg said, "and because there are a lot of the affluent homeowners we feel will want to move out of larger homes and into apartments with this level of quality and amenities commensurate with what they may have in their current situations."

He said he was not aware of a residential tower in New York City that offers as extensive an array of resort-style amenities on site as will be available at the Watermark, adding that the condos will nonetheless be a bargain by Big Apple standards.

Mr. Hochberg said the company expects that some home buyers in New Jersey will be people who own WCI condos in Florida and seek summer homes near New York City. The majority of tower residents in Florida have net worths "measured in the millions," he said, and almost half of them paid cash for their homes.

The company has built 50 residential towers in Florida. The only other property besides the Watermark that WCI is developing so far in New Jersey is in Monroe, where an age-restricted complex is being built.

Watermark condos will range in size from 900 to 1,940 feet, and penthouses on the top two floors will offer 2,880 to 3,300 square feet, Mr. Hochberg said, with a wide array of designs for home buyers to choose from.

Each unit will have hardwood floors throughout the entry, living, dining rooms and kitchen; stainless steel appliances; carpeting in the bedrooms; and marble master baths. Penthouse suites will feature a private elevator to a rooftop patio area.

The amenities will mirror those offered at WCI's "Sky Homes" in Florida, including such towers as the recently opened One Watermark Place in Palm Beach, the Tower Residences at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota and the Brighton in Naples, according to Mr. Hochberg.

The list of on-site attractions at Watermark Tower is to include an indoor pool and whirlpool spa; an outdoor pool, a health club and fitness center with men's and women's locker rooms and a steam room, sauna, and showers; an 18-seat film screening room; two guest suites; a "grand salon" lobby with a fireplace and a social room with a bar; a catering kitchen; a coffee bar; a billiards and card room; and a business lounge and private conference room.

The building will have a full-time concierge, a doorman, valet parking at its underground garage and shuttle bus service to the local commuter ferry.

"We are not certain what the look of the exterior will be yet," Mr. Hochberg said. "It will be something more indigenous to the Northeast than our Florida designs." WCI has hired the Manhattan architectural firm of Gruzen Samton to create the plans.

WCI, which has been building "lifestyle communities" in Florida since 1946, and planned developments and retirement homes in the Northeast for 20 years, was named America's Best Builder last year by the National Association of Home Builders. Its towers and planned communities offer prices from the mid-$100,000's to more than $10 million and include a wide array of recreational opportunities.

Last May, WCI moved to expand its northeastern operations by acquiring Spectrum Communities, based in Valhalla, N.Y., which Mr. Hochberg owned.

The newly grown northeastern division is currently developing several other residential communities in the region: Discovery Cove at Half Moon Bay in Croton-on-Hudson, the Legends at Manhattan Woods in West Nyack, the Legends at Pocantico Hills in Sleepy Hollow, and Four Corners in East Fishkill, all in New York; and Traditions at Historic Southbury in Southbury, Conn.

Homes for people over 55 are being developed under the Encore brand in Eastport and Lake Grove, N.Y., and in Monroe, N.J.

BY: Antoinette Martin
PUBLISHED IN: New York Times  DATE: March 20, 2005