The city’s weathered Journal Square neighborhood appears to be on track to get a makeover. A week after the City Council gave approval for a new 42-story residential building near Summit Avenue, the Planning Board has similarly blessed the “Journal Squared” development, also known as J2.
According to revised plans presented to the community last week, the KRE Group will build a 1,840-unit residential development behind the Journal Square transit hub on what is currently used as parking for NJ Transit and security personnel.
A portion of the development will also occupy what was once a Verizon office building on Summit Avenue.
The project, which will be built in three phases, will ultimately include about 36,000 square feet of retail space and 920 parking spaces.
“We’re planning to break ground in 2013 for Phase I,” said KRE Principal Jonathan Kushner, who also built the Grove Pointe development downtown. “I can’t project how long it will take to build Phase II and Phase III. But our plan is to complete Phase I within the next 36 months. That means we expect to be built and leased within 36 months.”
‘This is the most dramatic project that we’ve seen, I think, in the last 30 or 40 years.’ – Robert Cotter, Director, Jersey City Division of Planning
“A large part of our plan here is to rebuild all of Magnolia Way to make it a new public plaza,” Kushner said.
Transforming Journal Square
“This is a game-changer,” city engineer Jeff Wenger told residents and members of the Planning Board last week, who had gathered to hear about several changes Kushner and Handel Architects wanted to make to their original design.
The tiered development will be 70 stories at its highest point and will be a visible and prominent New Jersey landmark when viewed from Manhattan’s West Side. Originally designed as three separate towers, the revised Journal Squared plan is one cohesive building.
While specific residential amenities were not discussed during the public presentation last week, the finished complex will feature ambient lighting, new landscaping, and a completely redesigned back entrance to the PATH/NJ Transit station at Journal Square.
“This is the most dramatic project that we’ve seen, I think, in the last 30 or 40 years,” said Robert Cotter, director of the Jersey City Division of Planning. “This is an important project that is going to transform Journal Square, for real.”
Kushner said he expects J2 and Magnolia Plaza to be for Journal Square what Grove Pointe and Grove Plaza are to downtown.
Anyone familiar with Grove Plaza knows that it serves as a community hub and anchor and is the focal point for various downtown neighborhoods. The Plaza is the site for the Downtown Farmers Market, the city’s annual Groove on Grove outdoor concert series, and Creative Grove, a weekly craft market organized by local artist and gallery owner Uta Brauser.
Despite having a major transit hub and farmers market of its own, many Journal Square residents would agree that the Square lacks the cohesive community feel of downtown. Kushner said he expects J2 to change that.
“We expect this to be a gathering place in the community, and that’s something that Journal Square currently lacks,” said Kushner. “I think this will become that place where – as we’ve seen with Grove Plaza – people will pass through as they’re on their way home or running errands. But they won’t just pass through it quickly. They’ll come, maybe get a coffee or a snack, sit for a while, maybe listen to some music or meet up with other members of the community and talk for a while before going on their way. Nobody really uses Journal Square in that way right now. But I think they will.”
Infrastructure nightmare looming?
Journal Squared is the second large-scale residential development to be approved for this area in the past three weeks. Two weeks ago, the City Council approved a settlement with the owner of Robinhood Plaza. The settlement has paved the way for the construction of a 42-story residential development near Summit Avenue.
Many residents, particularly those who remember the Square’s heyday as a vibrant business hub, welcome this development and say it is time that communities away from the city’s waterfront begin to benefit from Jersey City’s renaissance.
But some residents in the Journal Square neighborhood have raised concerns about the impact this new development will have on the city’s transportation infrastructure. They are specifically concerned, they say, about increased ridership on the PATH trains and gridlock due to increased automobile traffic.
When asked whether residents are right to be concerned, Kushner said, “We have a traffic engineer who’s going to be helping us make sure that [traffic flows] smoothly…We believe in making sure that the streets and access points work for pedestrians, cyclists, people rollerblading, skateboarding, driving, people taking the bus. It all matters.”
Site plans for Journal Squared that were shared with the community last week show two “kiss and ride” drop off points where motorists can pick up and deposit PATH riders without interfering with regular street traffic flow.
Speaking on behalf of the Hilltop Neighborhood Association, Althea Bernheim submitted a letter to the Planning Board expressing support for J2.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at email@example.com.