Conversion to condo suits couple’s needs - Pinnacle complex was ‘best value’


Paul and Dana Franchi moved from Canada to the Upper West Side of Manhattan in 2000, when Paul relocated with his company and Dana was going to graduate school at Columbia University.
They didn’t expect to stay longer than two years. In 2002, when career opportunities led them to extend their stay, they moved into a rental in a 25-story building on the Jersey City waterfront.
“We loved being in the city, but we were longing for a little bit more nature, more room, more space,” Dana said.
In 2005, Pinnacle Companies purchased the building with the goal of converting the 269 units into condominiums, a complex the developers named Mandalay on the Hudson.
“I was worried,” said Paul, who works for a private wealth and institutional management firm in Manhattan. “We were really fond of the place. I always used to say, ‘If only we could buy this place.’ We used to own real estate in Canada, but we had been out of the market for a while.”
Ultimately the Franchis were able to buy the place, a two-bedroom, two-bath unit that was completely revamped and modernized, for under $790,000. For the four weeks it took for their apartment to be redone, the Franchis camped out in a vacant apartment in the building.
Paul believes it’s one of the best investments they could have made.
“I came to the conclusion, after a thorough research process, that Mandalay on the Hudson represents far and away the best value for your money, compared to Hoboken, [other projects in] Jersey City Port Liberte, Edge Water,” Franchi said, “I really looked over the market.”
“This was the first condo conversion for Pinnacle Downtown,” said Mary Boorman, senior vice president for development, sales and marketing of The Pinnacle Companies. “It worked out very well we can offer various packages: You can either buy the home as is without improvements, or a standard upgrade package with refurbishing and painting, or a prime package where we completely redo the kitchen and baths.”
Mandalay also boasts the heated outdoor pool, a children’s playground, a residents’ community room, a fully equipped fitness area, a riverfront promenade for walkers and joggers, and a 24-hour concierge service. Newport Centre Mall is nearby, and the revitalized downtown is three blocks away.
Boorman said the one-, two-, and three-bedroom condos, priced from the low $400,00s to the mid $800,000s, are almost 75 percent sold. Between 20 and 30 renters have purchased their apartments to rent out.
The downturn in the market has not hurt sales at Mandalay, Boorman said, because potential buyers from Manhattan are finding New Jersey to be a bargain and commuting—with the NJ Transit light-rail station close by—to be a breeze.
“You get a parking spot in the garage,” Boorman said. “But a lot of time, you don’t need your car. A lot of people are coming over [from New York City] and discovering Jersey City for the first time.”
Paul said he was happy and his family was able to stay put in a complex named by the New Jersey Builders Association as “Community of the Year” in April.
“I Grew up on a farm north of Toronto, and all I wanted to do was move to the city,” he said. “Mandalay was built right on the water with majestic views. We sit down and enjoy the boats going by and the view of the Empire State Building. It’s like being in a Manhattanite, but you have a deeded car parking spot, and easy access to get out.”
When they first moved to Jersey City five years ago, Franchi found the area a little dicey.
“I was afraid for my safety at night,” he said. "In five years there’s been a sea change. It’s going to be like Brooklyn Heights in a short period of time."
Dana said she believes Mandalay is a great place for their 17-month-old son, Benjamin.
“The building is full of young children: Every moment he goes out, there’s someone to play with,” she said.
In addition, she said she is pleased that the multicultural nature of Mandalay’s residents exposes her son to the people from all over the world.
Plus, she and Benjamin spend a lot off time walking on the Promenade along the river.
"At one year of age, my son knows the word ‘river,’" she said. "It’s a very peaceful place for my son to grow up."