While the city works out plans to revamp the entire southwest corner of the city, the Zoning Board is currently hearing a new application for a large mixed-use development near the border.
The proposed development, which would occupy an entire block at 38 Jackson St., would contain 280 residential units, 7,000 square feet of community space, 3,000 sq. ft. of open space, a large indoor plaza, a parking garage, 3,000 sq. ft. of office space, and roughly 10,000 sq. ft. of retail space.
The building would house approximately 800 residents. The open space within the complex would be accessible to the public.
The current building houses artists’ studios and community space for artists, as well as Chambord Prints, Inc., an artistic wallpaper company.
An attorney for the applicant said during the meeting that all 10 structures currently on the lot would have to be demolished.
“We’re just trying to climb up from where we had fallen.” – Dennis Shah
The applicant seeks several variances before the Zoning Board, including obtaining permission to construct residences within an area zoned for industrial purposes.
The application, which has been in its early stages for three years, still requires testimony from a traffic expert, planner, and engineer before it can be approved.
The Zoning Board heard testimony from architects Beyer Blinder Belle during last week’s meeting.
Members of the Zoning Board expressed their concern over the application which, according to architects, intends to maintain the architectural design and style of the previous building, which many consider to be a landmark.
“We wanted to create a building that was functional,” said architect Maxwell Pau. “It captures the essence of [the area’s industrial buildings through] the robust, big windows which were typical of the old warehouse buildings.”
“[I’m concerned that] the remnants of the industrial past are pretty much going to be flattened,” said Zoning Board member Phil Cohen, “and you’re going to be starting with a clean slate, as opposed to building on the historic, industrial site that you have there.”
“There’s a history there and there’s value in that history for the city,” added Cohen.
Pau said that the design was intended to incorporate both a contemporary and industrial look.
Pau also testified that all ten existing structures, which were constructed from 1900 to 1920, are “completely inadequate” from a functional perspective. Currently, parts of the block have no sidewalk.
The board voted to postpone the hearing because the meeting ran late.
Future of the building
Zoning Board member Jay Boucher is a member of the block’s PVS Gallery Group, which could be displaced if the application moves forward. Boucher recused himself from the hearing, but remained in the audience.
“While I am a tenant of the 38 Jackson complex, I’m also a member of the Hoboken Zoning Board of Adjustments and would prefer not to comment on the ongoing hearing,” said Boucher in an email.
PVS Director Virginia Kamenitzer could not be reached for comment by the time of publication.
Shah said he has received “mixed” feedback from tenants.
“It’s been a mixed bag,” said Shah. “There are a lot of people who are for the application within the building, and some who are not.”
Shah, who owns Chambord Prints, Inc., said after last week’s Zoning Board meeting that his company will relocate if the application is approved.
He also said he is considering relocating within Hoboken, if a viable opportunity presents itself.
“We’d be happy to look into it,” said Shah.
Reading between the lines
Shah also said that the southwest redevelopment initiative initially taken by the city has created a financial burden.
The city council voted in May to move forward with a “rehabilitation” plan for the Southwest area rather than the previously decided upon “redevelopment´ plan. The move will essentially bar the tools that redevelopment typically allows, chiefly eminent domain – unless the seizure of property is intended for public use, such as park land.
For several years the city has intended to bring a park to the 4th Ward.
Shah said that the city has not told him whether they wish to acquire his property.
“The city has not communicated much to us,” said Shah, “[and] I have a hard time reading between the lines.”
Shah said that while the city determines the future of the 4th Ward, he has spent money on attorney fees (during the city’s redevelopment initiative), as well as the costs associated with uncertainty over the future of his lot.
“The site has been in flux for 10 years and it has put the functioning of my building and business – both which needed long-term planning and communicating – in jeopardy,” continued Shah. “It’s not that I’m going to lose, it’s that I’ve [already] lost a lot. We’re just trying to climb up from where we had fallen.”
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.