JERSEY CITY – Stabilization work has begun on the historic H&M Powerhouse that will ultimately lead to the removal of the building’s trio of iconic smokestacks. The removal of the smokestacks will take about six weeks to complete, according to the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency (JCRA).
“Unfortunately, the removal of the smokestacks is unavoidable at this time,” said JCRA Director Robert Antonicello in a prepared statement. “The years of deterioration have undermined the stability of the stacks and…exhaustive engineering studies, including invasive testing last spring, have led to the conclusion that the smokestacks could not be saved.”
The building has, however, been stabilized, Antonicello said. The Cordish Companies, a Baltimore, Maryland-based developer, is planning to redevelop the Powerhouse. Current plans call for a new set of smokestacks to be rebuilt to the structure retains its historic profile.
Antonicello said the next phase of Powerhouse stabilization will begin later this year when the building gets a temporary roof.
A renovated H&M Powerhouse is supposed to be the lynchpin of Jersey City’s Powerhouse Arts District, a vision which has been slow to get off the ground.
According to the city’s original redevelopment plans for the area, the Powerhouse building was supposed to become the anchor for an historic district that would eventually combine artist studios, galleries, and affordable residential housing units for artists. Plans for the district, which covers an eight-block area between Newport and Grove Street, called for an extended art-infused plaza and walkway. The concept was supposed to make Jersey City an arts destination that would bring in tourist dollars and create jobs.
Thus far, this dream hasn’t materialized and much of the original plan for the Powerhouse Arts District has been scaled back. For example, plans to have 50 percent of the area’s new housing designated as affordable housing for artists has been cut to 10 percent, and the city has granted variances to developers to build luxury housing in the district. – E. Assata Wright