Architectural Revival: A Look at Agencie Group’s Jersey City Projects

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Before and after of Agencie Group’s 344.5 8th Street project. Image courtesy of Agencie Group.

A pair of Jersey City residents who co-founded a New York City architectural firm are hoping to do their part to preserve the past by redesigning – and rebuilding – one historic home at a time in their adopted hometown.

Colombian-born Andrés Cortés and his wife, Sarrah Khan, have designed hundreds of commercial and residential structures and streetscapes around the world since co-founding architectural and engineering firm Agencie Group.

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Image courtesy of Agencie Group.

Launched in 2007, the firm has worked on several major projects including the New Terminal One at John F. Kennedy Airport. Their work on the west side of the Hudson River includes the interiors of Park Francis and the revamp of Mathews along Grove Street.

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Image courtesy of Agencie Group.

But their initial Jersey City passion project was the 2011 renovation of their Hamilton Park brownstone. Cortes gutted their Civil War-era home, remodeled it with modern design elements and fixtures, and since then, he got the itch to do it again.

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Image courtesy of Agencie Group.

“Jersey City’s historic districts are filled with charm and character, although decades of weathering and neglect have impacted some areas,” Cortes said. “We’re keen on resuscitating these historic properties and we believe these improvements are contributing to Jersey City’s desirability as a place to live and raise a family.”

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Image courtesy of Agencie Group.

The pair are leading a quiet effort to improve the streetscapes in downtown Jersey City by purchasing brownstones and townhouses and reconstructing them into modernized spaces while reinforcing their true historical character.

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Image courtesy of Agencie Group.

Cortes renovated and enlarged 344.5 Eighth Street two years ago into a spectacular four-bedroom, three-bathroom, 2.400-square-foot home that sold in one of the highest per-square-foot deals in Jersey City history.

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Image courtesy of Agencie Group.

Less than two blocks from his home, Cortes is currently renovating 335 Eighth Street. Purchased last year, Cortes envisions transforming the 120-year-old structure into a four-bedroom, three-bathroom home with contemporary interior spaces and a new exterior that reinforces the area’s historic beauty.

“Our focus is the complete enhancement of these historic properties while restoring and maintaining their charm,” said Cortes, who is the design-developer for the project.

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Plans for their upcoming 335 8th Street project. Image courtesy of Agencie Group.

Cortes is currently working with Jersey City’s Historic Preservation Commission to secure approvals for the project, which will include sustainability features like high-efficiency HVAC and lighting systems.

As the designer and builder, he plans to add new structural and mechanical systems to high-caliber finishes including English interior paints, Italian and Greek stones, hand-crafted ceramic tiles, German plumbing fixtures, old-growth wood floors, and state-of-the-art appliances.

With a construction boom in several Downtown sections that have changed the landscape over the years, preserving Jersey City’s past has arguably never been more important. While rehabilitating older homes can be challenging, Cortes sees the rewards directly when taking a stroll around the block.

“Restoring these homes while maintaining their true character requires tremendous attention to detail and a lot of patience,” Cortes says. “But it’s very rewarding that the results are having a positive impact on our community, now and for generations to come.”


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