Drivers heading past Weehawken/Hoboken border may have noticed the construction of a 10-story building between the Willow Avenue and Park Avenue bridges.
From the bridges, it seems like strange place to build, but from the ground, it makes more sense. After the popular Weehawken watering hole Gennaro’s closed after 30 years in business, the area below the bridges had become a desolate square block of abandoned parked cars and illegally dumped garbage.
Because of this, local Weehawken developers Tom and Scott Heagney, who hail from the “Shades” neighborhood where the building is being constructed, are used to that point of view, and say that because of it, the location is a perfect place to build.
“You’re talking about what’s probably the worst little section of Weehawken, down under those bridges,” said Scott, who has joined his father’s business. “It just so happens that it’s also the entrance to the town. This will make the area look much nicer.”
“Hopefully what we’re going to see is an old neighborhood accommodating a new neighborhood.” – Mayor Richard Turner
“It’s a great addition to the neighborhood,” he said on Wednesday. “When Gennaro’s closed that area unfortunately became a bit of a dirty hangout area. This will bring activity back to that section of town.”
Rentals, not condos
The 150-unit apartment complex, complete with a pool, gym, and weight room, has taken almost six years to get off the ground. Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner said that it went through many iterations since the plans were first made public in 2007, and was originally a set of condos.
With only 120 units that were exclusively two- and three-bedroom properties, the Heagneys decided to shift to rentals when the real estate market crashed.
The newest plan provides for all one- and two-bedrooms, and includes four stories of parking. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the Shades neighborhood, the Heagneys went through a long process of adding disaster mitigation safeguards to the building, including moving all electrical components well above the ground floor.
Turner noted that the residents will have access to various modes of public transportation. Within a few blocks is the Hudson Bergen Light Rail, the Lincoln Tunnel, and a plethora of bus lines. He said that with the addition of new residents and possibly families, the last undeveloped section of the Shades could become a center for community life.
“Hopefully what we’re going to see is an old neighborhood accommodating a new neighborhood,” said Turner. “It’s really only about a block removed from the main Shades neighborhood, but since Gennaro’s closed nothing’s really happened down there.”
Heagney said that revitalizing “the old neighborhood” is one of his father’s lifelong dreams. The duo built the St. Lawrence Estates there in the early 2000s, and afterwards began to look at the area under the bridges as a possible construction spot.
“Hopefully the building will make the entire neighborhood a bit more complete,” Scott said.
Construction on the project is supposed to conclude next spring.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org