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Interactive Map: Momentum Builds in NJ Construction Market

Colleen O'Dea | August 9, 2013

Certificates of occupancy up 25 percent for nonresidential development, more than 7 percent for housing

New Jersey municipalities issued certificates of occupancy for about 25 percent more nonresidential space last year than in 2011, with at least some of that boost attributable to the Revel Casino in Atlantic City.

The number of residential units that received approval also rose, by about 7.4 percent, compared with the previous year, according to data from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. However, the number of certificates issued in 2012 lagged the 2010 number by about 4.6 percent.

A total of 11,118 residential units received a certificate of occupancy in 2012, with more than half of those going to one- and two-family homes. In 2011, officials issued 10,352 approvals, while the number in 2010 was 11,625. Lakewood in Ocean County and Secaucus in Hudson last year issued the most certificates -- 489 and 445, respectively. No new housing units were approved for occupancy last year in 136 communities, most of them smaller towns in built-up North Jersey.

This year, through May, municipalities have issued 4,135 certificates. Franklin Township in Somerset County leads the state with 393 approvals. Franklin also gave occupancy certificates to the second-largest amount of nonresidential space, 637,131 square feet. South Brunswick, in Middlesex, leads with 855,732 square feet. Statewide, towns have given occupancy certificates to about 9 million square feet of nonresidential space, including office, retail, storage, and other properties.

Last year, municipalities approved 31.4 million square feet of nonresidential space, which was far more than the 24.6 million square feet in 2011 and 25.5 million in 2010. Most of the municipalities that issued the certificates for the largest amounts of nonresidential space were located in the center of New Jersey -- in Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Somerset, and Union counties.

Roughly a third of the square footage approved in 2012 was in Atlantic City, which issued certificates of occupancy for more than 11 million square feet. About half was listed as storage, but that was also the year that Revel Casino, which has about 1,400 rooms, opened. Secaucus was the only other municipality giving approval to more than 1 million square feet of nonresidential space.

The largest categories of nonresidential development getting occupancy approval in 2012 were storage (8.6 million square feet) and multifamily and dormitories (7.2 million square feet). So far this year, multi-family leads with 3.3 million square feet, followed by office space, with 2.5 million.

While rising, construction activity in the state was still down last year compared with 2007, at the start of the recession, when municipalities gave occupancy approval to 48.6 million square feet of non-residential space and 23,138 residential units. The low point for both residential and other space since the recession was in 2011. While the state continues to recover, the issuance of certificates of occupancy lags construction activity.

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