Agreement will rebuild homeless shelter

St. Lucy’s will see $15 M new building as part of deal

City officials gathered to announce an agreement that will build a new facility for St. Lucy’s shelter and keep it in the same neighborhood where it is currently.
City officials gathered to announce an agreement that will build a new facility for St. Lucy’s shelter and keep it in the same neighborhood where it is currently.

St. Lucy’s homeless shelter, which redevelopment in the northern section of Jersey City threatened to displace, will get a new $15 million building across Grove Street from its current home as a result of a deal that will allow a developer to build a new residential high rise.

Under the agreement the Archdiocese of Newark, which owns St. Lucy’s, would sell St. Lucy’s and adjacent properties to Claremont Companies for a price that would cover the cost of the relocation and construction of a new facility, according to Mayor Steven Fulop.

The city will allow Claremont Companies to build a 430 unit 20-story luxury residential building on the site of the old shelter and the developer will build a new $15 million homeless shelter across the street for free. Claremont is expected to start construction in 2019.

That trade-off allows Claremont to exceed the 120 units that would otherwise be allowed under zoning for St. Lucy’s property. Some of the 430 units will be affordable housing.

Officials do not yet know the estimated cost of the high rise construction. Fulop, however, said Claremont will not receive an abatement for the project.

Although located in Jersey City, the shelter accommodates homeless and others from throughout Hudson County.

The shelter is run by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark. But the archdiocese owns several parcels of property, including the closed St. Lucy’s Church on the corner.

The new shelter will be constructed on property across the street from the existing shelter, while the residential building will be constructed on property currently occupied by the old shelter as well as the church rectory. The church built in 1884 will be preserved.

Although at its current Grove Street location since 1986, the shelter’s fate had been uncertain because of the impact of new development in the former Horseshoe section of the city. New luxury rentals on Jersey Avenue, plus a proposed redevelopment of the nearby Emerson Radio building put pressure on the city to relocate the shelter.

‘A great blessing’

Fulop, however, said the city wanted the shelter to remain in that section of the city, and the agreement with the developer achieves that.

“We looked at other options, but this is the only one that would allow the shelter to remain here.”  Mayor Steven Fulop

The shelter has been swamped with increased population, according to officials from Catholic Charities.

St. Lucy’s has a capacity for 120 people, but often houses as many as 150, and even more during particularly cold spells, said John Westervelt, CEO of the archdiocese’s Catholic Charities.

Officials said there is also an increased need among the elderly.

Fulop said the new shelter will be built first, and then the luxury rental high rise. This will allow the existing shelter to continue services during the period of construction. Fulop did not have a time frame for completion of the new shelter.

Fulop said the agreement accomplishes several key things, such as keeping the facility near its currently location, expanding the shelter’s services and capacity, and preventing taxpayers from having to pay to relocate the shelter.

“This is a public/private partnership that will not cost the taxpayers anything,” he said.

The new shelter would also replace and expand other residential services that the existing shelter provides such as residences for people living with HIV/Aids, and six units of permanent housing.

Bishop Manuel A. Cruz called the new shelter plan a “great blessing.”

Cruz said he’s been involved with the shelter for several years, and that it plays a vital role in helping the neediest in the area.

St. Lucy’s Shelter is one of three shelters in Hudson County that provide homeless and other services.

Councilman Michael Yun said maintaining services for homeless, seniors and others is critical, and that this project will help in that regard for the future.

Some later called this “a miracle on Grove Street,” alluding to the timing of the announcement just before Christmas and a critical time when St. Lucy’s services are needed most.

“We must not forget the most vulnerable in our new prosperity,” Yun said, referring to the massive expansion of luxury housing in the city over the last decade.

The agreement must be approved by the Jersey City Planning Board, and then the City Council, before construction can start.

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