The local economy showed signs of life this past year with several groundbreaking events for big development projects around Hudson County, and discussions among residents and officials about future projects in Hoboken, Jersey City, Secaucus, and North Bergen.
This month was a December to remember for residents of the Journal Square section of Jersey City. Only a week apart, the City Council and Planning Board approved plans for two separate residential high-rise apartment complexes, including the long-discussed Journal Squared (J2). With 112 floors between them, the projects are expected to break ground in 2013.
The projects will be a symbol of redevelopment of the long-beleaguered neighborhood, once the city’s economic epicenter.
A divided council approved a controversial measure to allow the construction of a 42-story residential development near Summit Avenue, an amended version of the Journal Square 2060 Redevelopment Plan. It will allow the developer to add 17 more stories than zoning laws allow. In return for granting the variance, the city will receive slightly under an acre of land for a municipal park.
“[Journal Square] is an area in need of redevelopment and this is a viable project that will help accomplish that.” – Nidia Lopez
Elsewhere in town, it was announced in May that the Concord Hospitality Enterprises Company, which owns and operates 84 hotels around the country, had won the rights to transform the condemned One Exchange Place property into a 13-story, 247-room hotel. The company said it planned to do a full renovation of the site and that, if plans remain on schedule, the hotel could open for business as early as fall 2014.
In September, Goya Foods Inc. broke ground on what will be its new 615,000 square foot headquarters on County Road. Merging some operations from the company’s two existing headquarters in Secaucus and West Bethpage, N.Y., the site will also create about 80 new jobs and 150 temporary construction jobs open to Jersey City residents.
Goya’s decision to stay in New Jersey (the company considered sites in Pennsylvania and New York) was an economic victory for Gov. Christopher Christie, who offered Goya tax incentives to remain based in the state.
The biggest development story in Hoboken this year was the back-and-forth over 52 acres of land owned by NJ Transit along the city’s southern border. The transit agency and the city have different visions for the scale of the commercial and residential development that should go there.
Back in 2008, negotiations stalled after NJ Transit submitted a proposal for a 70-story office tower among the residential units. City officials believed the scale of the project was too large.
This past September, officials from the company submitted an abridged version of their proposal, lowering the height of the tower to 27 stories and adding a 26-story residential building. Meanwhile, the city has a plan with towers that are 19 and 12 stories, respectively, and also includes a performing arts center, an accelerator space for businesses, and bike and pedestrian paths. The city’s plan would create 475 residential units, while NJ Transit’s would create 1,155.
A week after both visions were presented, activists voiced concerns over both proposals at a public meeting, criticizing the city’s plan for its lack of parks and NJ Transit’s plan for being too dense and crowded.
Meanwhile, city officials were able to get behind an announcement that a new 14-story waterfront building will be built just south of the W Hotel, the final piece of the puzzle in the city’s master plan for its 26-acre waterfront. Textbook giant Pearson Education signed a 15-year lease as the building’s first tenant, bringing 900 jobs. The building, developed by SJP Properties, will create approximately 600 construction jobs and will be LEED Silver Certified, highlighting its distinction as environmentally friendly.
At the end of the year, it was revealed that a developer would like to build a 20-story hotel on property owned by the U.S. Post Office near Hoboken’s south waterfront. The post office and developer were considering the plans, but Hoboken officials said the project and its scope have not been approved by any city agency. So far, the city has one hotel, the W on the waterfront.
The Xchange at Secaucus Junction, a residential and commercial site that opened as a counterpart to the Frank R. Lautenberg Rail Station, expanded in Secaucus in 2012. In March, the site’s developers, Atlantic Realty Development Corporation, announced Phase III and IV of their plan, which will include a marina on the Hackensack River waterfront with restaurants, stores, and a recreation center.
Phase III of Xchange, which holds 317 residential units, opened on April 1, and construction began on Phase IV over the summer.
Over the summer, Roseland Properties and Hartz Mountain Industries, the two companies that developed properties along the Hudson River waterfront in Weehawken, made big splashes in Secaucus. In June, Roseland opened Osprey Cover, a 116-unit residential complex on Meadowlands Parkway.
In July, Hartz Mountain announced plans for a massive 500-unit rental development on a 13-acre tract owned by ORICA Rug, a commercial business.
Drama continued to surround the proposed 59-unit Appleview condominium development on the North Bergen/Guttenberg border throughout 2012. Much of the controversy was focused on a natural gas pipeline on the site of the proposed development.
The North Bergen Planning Board had approved the project despite residents’ protests on March 30, with numerous conditions. A superior court judge ruled that the project had to go back to the Planning Board so that more evidence could be presented. The next hearing will take place in January.
Meanwhile, a residential development called AvalonBay opened its doors in June, with 164 residential units and 17,000 square feet of retail space, creating additional jobs for North Bergen.
Although U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez was unable to attend the grand opening, he sent a staff member to relay this message: “Smart growth projects like this give residents what they are looking for: easy access to work and to world class restaurants, entertainment and shopping on both sides of the river. It’s exciting to see projects like this coming to our communities.”
A controversial plan for a seven-store strip mall at 88th Street and Tonnelle Avenue made headlines in April after several Zoning Board of Adjustment and Alcoholic Beverage Control meetings spun out of control. Some residents said the project would add to an already congested traffic situation.
But a lawyer for a proposed liquor store in the mall saw a conspiracy. He accused protestors from the Concerned Citizens of North Bergen of only rallying against the new store because the group’s leader, Larry Wainstein, owns a separate liquor store very close by.
The matter has still not been resolved.
West New York
Residents clashed with out-of-town developer Capodagli Properties throughout 2012 over a proposed residential high-rise on the Boulevard East site of a long-vacant Exxon gas station. As early as March, the town’s zoning board meetings became dramatic as residents gathered in protest against the Meridia Le Boulevard, a 13-story building.
The proposed building would hold 123 rental units (the area is zoned for 69) and would sit on 13,194 square feet of land (the law requires such a building be built on at least 40,000 square feet).
The board hopes to vote on the proposal at a Jan. 24 meeting.
In August town officials and representatives from the developer Lennar Urban broke ground on the first of five luxury residential buildings dubbed “The Avenue Collection.” Four years in the planning, the $50 million, seven-story building will house 74 one, two and three-bedroom units costing an average of $1.4 million each.
Once all five buildings are finished, the Avenue Collection, located just south of the Port Imperial Ferry Terminal, the area will be home to 669 glass-built condos. The revolutionary design is a noted departure from the area’s traditional wooden and brick look.
“We are in the middle of somewhat of a building boom,” said Mayor Richard Turner at the ceremony. “The future looks very bright for Weehawken.”
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The year in transportation
The Hudson Bergen Light Rail train runs routinely from Bayonne all the way through North Bergen. In October, U.S. senators Robert Menendez and Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) held a press conference at the Second Street station in Hoboken to announce federal funding of a study into how to most effectively expand the system.
Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer and Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy were on hand with the senators to accept $400,000 from the Federal Transportation Authority, which will be used study three potential improvements to the system: a new station in Jersey City, new rails for sections of track around Hoboken Terminal to allow for more trains, and an evaluation of the effect of the trains on traffic congestion around Paterson Plank Road.
This was a good year for Hudson County’s cyclists. Bike lanes were established along River Road in July, allowing enthusiasts to ride from Bulls Ferry Road in Weehawken to Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, nearly a mile away.
The most unfortunate transportation news of 2012 was the devastation and subsequent closing of Hoboken Terminal after Hurricane Sandy. Located on the Hudson River, the terminal suffered serious damage as a result of the storm, and PATH service to and from the station was suspended for weeks. Toward the end of the year, N.J. Transit resumed temporary service from Hoboken to 33rd Street in New York. Service between Hoboken and the World Trade Center remained closed.
Zimmer said in early December that full service will be restored to Hoboken early in 2013.