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Investing in millennials: Hugo Neu looks to replicate success stories from Harborside at Kearny Point

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The Midnight Market at Kearny Point.
The Midnight Market at Kearny Point. - ()

As Hugo Neu’s vision of the Kearny Point redevelopment begins to take shape, the developer has noticed a problem far too familiar to people doing business outside Hudson County: how do you attract millennials to areas that do not have a history of being millennial friendly?

In Kearny Point, community development manager Ashlee Sullivan said the answer could bringing millennials to the site and letting them take care of it.

Shortly after opening its first building, Kearny Point was the host of Midnight Market, a "foodie" event intended to attract millennials to new spaces with food, music and of course, alcohol.

The event, described as a "Foodie nightlife event" saw its first series of successes in Mack-Cali’s Harborside and has since spread to Journal Square, and now Kearny.

“Midnight Market, since it attracted so many people from so many different areas, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, would be a good way to get us some visibility and put Kearny Point on the map with people,” Sullivan said. “I’ve attended Midnight Markets previously and people love food, people love new, raw spaces, so we figured it was a good fit.”

Midnight Market is the vision of two Jersey City natives, Perla Nieves and Alysis Vasquez, who felt that while Jersey City has plenty to offer, it is in need of events that look to promote local food vendors in locations outside of their base territories.

“Our interest is to activate locations,” Nieves said. “We were (at Harborside) for a while and now they have a beer garden, they have different vendors that are doing pop-ups there, so the idea is the same here. This is an area that is getting there and people have started doing things. And this building itself is amazing.”

Midnight Market is a one-year-old venture started by Nieves, 27 and Vasquez, 29, who felt that after having been part of the Jersey City nightlife, the city needed a new form of entertainment.

Hugo Neu’s first phase of redevelopment, a 50,000-square-foot warehouse and an adjacent 160,000-square-foot office building, were the host to Nieves and Vasquez, and over 2,000 visitors and 17 vendors on Friday.

Vasquez, a former chef from the French Culinary Institute, said Midnight Market at Kearny Point proved to be successful for its ability to attract people from New York City and Jersey City to unique areas while providing a curated selection of food at an affordable price.

“The first thought I had was ‘People really travel in Brooklyn to go out to some random warehouse and they’re all awesome,’ ” she said. “This is the same kind of situation and also, we’re still really only five minutes outside of Jersey City, but we have access to the rest of the state over here because you don’t have all that traffic going into Jersey City. So, even though you’re away from the Manhattan access, it opens up to a new demographic of people we haven’t tapped into yet.

“We’ve proved that we can draw people and that the concept is awesome and that everyone likes the $5. It’s $5 in, $5 food, $5 drinks and you really can’t beat it. The vendors are really excited to have an opportunity to market their business and also make a little money.”

Midnight Market has even proven to be an attractive venue for vendors as far north as Glen Rock. Marcs Cheesecakes founder Marc Silverberg said he saw value in Midnight Market for its marketability through social media.

“I’m excited about the idea of doing something off our premises,” he said. “Besides charity events, we’ve never done anything like this before and it’s also an area I’d like to get more involved in. Farmers markets and that type of stuff. I think that’s the way we move through.”

“They approached me (because) we’ve gotten a lot of attention on Instagram for our cookie dough,” he said. “They said ‘That is new for us.’

“They approached me about this one and I’m quite happy to be in Kearny. I like the mix of people, I think it’s exciting to see young, old and different ethnicities. The demographics here are different for sure. But, we sell ice cream, we sell cheesecake, we sell cookie dough. These are fun thing everyone seems to like.”

Looking into the future, the Midnight Market founders said they see value outside of Jersey City in locations near Morristown, Philadelphia and Connecticut.

The group, who has worked with KRE and National Real Estate Advisors at Journal Squared, said KRE has invited them to host a similar event at Rose Hall in Madison.

“We’re bringing familiar faces from our market into a new location,” Nieves said. “We’re doing more things that are family-oriented, traditional food and things that are going to be comfort food, especially because it will be during the holidays.”

Sullivan said that in seeking to develop a business community on Hugo Neu’s site, Kearny Point will also host events with established businesses and organizations like the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce and Kearny Bank.

Kearny Point’s first phase of development is 95 percent occupied while its next phase under construction recently reached the 50 percent pre-leased.

“Kearny Point is eventually going to be its own small campus and community,” she said. “At this point right now, as we’re trying to spread the word about Kearny Point.

“Obviously, we want millennials, we want people with ideas, we want tech businesses, but we’re also looking for established businesses that are looking for new talent, growth opportunities and most of all, that are looking for a sense of a business community rather than just a pure office space.”

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Mario Marroquin

Mario Marroquin

Mario Marroquin covers real estate. A native of El Salvador, Mario is bilingual in English and Spanish. He graduated from Penn State University and worked in Pennsylvania before moving to New Jersey. His email is mariom@njbiz.com.

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