Ground broken on downtown rec center/library

Turf field, basketball court, new library, parking, and more in construction

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The facility is at the former site of Kennedy Furniture. The owner of the property sold it to the township after the store had a major fire in 2016.
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These architectural renderings tell the story so far on what residents can expect.
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The facility is at the former site of Kennedy Furniture. The owner of the property sold it to the township after the store had a major fire in 2016.
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These architectural renderings tell the story so far on what residents can expect.

Exactly one week after breaking ground on the new Paterson Plank Road park adjacent to the Hudson Mews construction project, North Bergen officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for the $13 million construction of the upcoming North Bergen Community Center and Library.

The center and library will be located at 1231 Kennedy Boulevard, at the corner of 13th Street.

The township first approved the bonding for the project in mid-January, and the expected completion date for the facility is toward the end of 2020.

“This is part of our larger vision for the downtown area of North Bergen,” North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco said, echoing similar sentiments from the downtown groundbreaking one week prior.

Officials said that they want to improve access to park space for downtown residents. A major park renovation and construction movement in the township has a heavy focus on spreading out some new green space in areas where it’s more sparse.

The facility, which will be five stories tall, will serve as a recreation hub for all residents, and a practice space for local sports teams. The Kennedy Branch of the North Bergen Public Library, at 2123 Kennedy Boulevard, will be shuttered. The library at the facility will serve as a replacement, with more space, equipment, and other resources than the Kennedy Branch currently provides.

RSC Architects is the firm behind the project. The firm is also currently working in the township of Weehawken, on a 3.5 acre, $12-14 million expansion to their waterfront park.

A downtown asset

Recreational aspects of the project include a full-size basketball court with six hoops, a second-floor track placed above the court, indoor and outdoor fitness areas, and a turf field sized for football and soccer which will be installed on the rooftop.

“The rec center is state of the art,” Parks and Recreation Commissioner Hugo Cabrera said. “Right now, we bus most of our kids to practices from downtown. During rush hour, that’s impossible. Now, the kids will be able to come here and we’ll have our own downtown teams with a new place to practice.”

The downtown library, which will replace the current Kennedy Branch, will be a much larger space for downtown residents than the Kennedy Branch, which Sacco said the township outgrew in the four years since it was first established. It will be roughly equivalent in size as the main branch of the library.

The new library will have a computer lab, classrooms, study areas, and multipurpose community rooms.

“This space is going to be a great opportunity to expand our services downtown, both recreationally and academically, for our public here,” library director Sai Rao said.

The new facility is also designed to solve a parking shortage. A public parking deck, two stories high, will hold 63 parking spots, alleviating some of the street parking issues in an area on Kennedy Boulevard where curbside parking is at its densest.

While the township has already allocated $14 million in bonds toward the project, they expect to receive substantial grants from the Hudson County Green Acres program, state Department of Environmental Protection programs, and federal programs to help offset a good deal of the bonding costs.

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