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Lighter Weight, Thermal Value, and Million Dollar Views

Smith-Midland and SlenderWall Perform for K. Hovnanian

The 200-acre Port Imperial planned development stretches for two miles along the Hudson River, cutting through portions of West New York, Weehawken and Guttenberg, N.J. With Manhattan just a 7-minute ferry ride away, this former home to empty warehouses and derelict railyards is being transformed into a vibrant mix of residential, retail and office space.

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Among the star properties is the 278-unit Nine on the Hudson luxury condo building. The project has earned glowing reviews from both the New Jersey and New York City real estate press for its sophisticated looks and extensive amenities package – but buyers are mostly drawn by the stunning views offered of the Manhattan skyline, just across the Hudson. SlenderWall precast wall-panel assemblies helped developers create bigger windows to maximize those views, along with natural daylight. And the panels’ modular, lightweight design aided construction efforts, as well.

Development long in the making

Port Imperial sits in area along the New Jersey side of the Hudson River dubbed the Gold Coast, mirroring Manhattan from 33rd St. to 85th St. on the other side. Development planning first began back in 1981, when Arthur Imperatore, Sr., paid $7.5 million for the former Weehawken Yard. In 1986, he started up the New York Waterway ferry service to shuttle commuters to New York City. By the late 1980s, rental towers began sprouting, as both tenants and developers began to see value in Manhattan skyscraper views and access without that city’s sky-high rents.

A master plan was developed for master developer Roseland Property Company by the early 2000s, which was when Nine on the Hudson developer K. Hovnanian began its plans for the 13-story high-rise. “Then the market turned in a different direction and we mothballed the site, at that point,” says Michael Wong, the company’s community construction manager.

K. Hovnanian’s involvement was an indicator of Port Imperial’s possible significance to the region’s real estate market. The company is a New Jersey-based developer of residential projects across the United States. Established by Kevork S. Hovnanian in 1959, the company has grown to become one of the nation’s top 10 homebuilders, constructing subdivision-style communities, active living developments and high-rise condo buildings. It became a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange in 2001, with revenues of $2.0 billion in 2018.

As the real estate market rebounded, along with the rest of the economy, the mothballs came off the Port Imperial development plans, and K. Hovnanian broke ground on its ambitious project – only its second high-rise in 60. Construction resumed in December 2015 and was completed in September 2018. The 278 units went on the market with prices ranging from $899,000 up to $8 million for the 4,000 penthouse.

Bringing premium design to the Hudson

While location is certainly a big part of the draw for Nine on the Hudson, good looks and amenities have helped the developer charge premium prices. This is one of the only “for-sale” properties in Port Imperial, Wong says, with the majority of new residential properties being rentals. So, the company worked to provide enticements, which include a 2-story fitness facility, 24-hour concierge services, a rooftop lounge and even a dog wash.

Gross square footage for the 13-story building totals 700,000 sq. ft., with roughly 300,000 sq. ft. dedicated to three levels of parking and the remaining 400,000 sq. ft. to the 278 living units and amenity spaces. The cast-in-place concrete structure features an exterior façade composed of precast SlenderWall concrete panels, field laid brick, metal panels, and punched aluminum windows.

The 466 SlenderWall panels, in a Smooth Acid-Etch finish, help call out the ziggurat-style tiering of one wing of the horseshoe-shaped building. SlenderWall assemblies combine an exterior panel with vapor barrier, closed-cell foam insulation and interior framing studs, were shipped to the site, ready to install, providing significant labor savings. The panel insulation’s R-Value of 21 also helps ensure residents stay comfortable, no matter what weather extremes the waterfront location might present.

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The final design differed somewhat from what K. Hovnanian’s planners originally had in mind, according to Wong. The company revised its brief when architects with Marchetto, Higgins and Stieve came on board for the revitalized project. “The prior building was more for over-55 buyers, this one has a lot more amenities than previously,” he says. “It’s similar to the prior design, but it gave us more views.”

The unique composition of the 30lbs. per square foot SlenderWall panels was key to achieving the goal of more views. With their lighter weight, SlenderWall panels enable designers to incorporate large window openings without compromising structural integrity. Additionally, the manufacturing system creates efficiencies of scale, which this project’s architects used to great advantage. Here, the panels were designed in a repetitive, squared-donut arrangement that both met design goals and facilitated a very efficient layout across the building’s façade. The panels’ weight advantage also allowed installation to occur from a single tower crane across the building’s wide footprint.

SlenderWall also offers designers of high-end projects an aesthetic advantage, according to company president Art Miles. “From an architectural standpoint, we can mimic any of the finishes that give a high-end project its oomph,” he says. “There’s very little that we cannot do – I know we have one of our licensees who’s even experimenting with polishing SlenderWall. And with colors, you can either stain it or put the color into the mix. Plus, you’re getting something that’s easily installed, and it comes insulated – and, in many cases, the windows are already installed, as well.”

Reception for the completed Nine on the Hudson has been very positive. It’s been highly covered by the real estate press throughout the region. Even the New York Times has touted the value offered for easy access to Manhattan’s benefits, at a significantly lower price than similar properties within the city, itself.

“People have a lot of assumptions, but when they come over here, they realize how nice it is,” Alexander Hovnanian, area vice president with K. Hovnanian said in an interview with the New York City-based website Observer. “The views of the city and river are spectacular. It’s literally a perspective that can’t be offered within NYC.”

Project details:

Architect - Marchetto, Higgins and Stieve
Engineer of Record - Cates Engineering
Structure Owner - K. Hovnanian at Port Imperial Urban Renewal VI, LLC   
General Contractor - Sordoni Construction
PCI-Certified Erector - EE Marr Erectors

42,037 Sq. Ft. SlenderWall – 466 panels
6,611 Sq. Ft. Architectural Panels
Finishes used: Smooth Acid-Etch
Materials used for the structural frame: Cast-in-place concrete
Number of stories: 13
Project delivery method: Design/build

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