Developer contributions could build new recreation center

Hoboken council moves to amend Western Edge Redevelopment Plan to pave way for new public facility

The Western Edge Redevelopment Plan dictates how property abutting Hoboken's western border can be developed.
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The Western Edge Redevelopment Plan dictates how property abutting Hoboken's western border can be developed.

A public pool has been a huge ask from Hoboken residents for years. Now Councilman Ruben Ramos says the city is working towards that goal, after the council introduced an amended ordinance regarding a development area on Hoboken’s west side.

The western edge

Redeveloping Hoboken’s western edge began over a decade ago in 2006 when the Planning Board prepared an investigation and held a public hearing recommending that the Western Edge Study Area qualified as an Area in Need of Redevelopment.

Based on the findings of the report, the City Council declared roughly six blocks just east of the light rail tracks between Ninth Street and 14th Street a Redevelopment Area the following year.

A draft redevelopment plan was prepared for the city in September 2008 but it was met with public resistance due to the excessive height of the buildings, an inadequate amount of open space, and the lack of a cohesive plan for a community center.

A revised plan created in 2014 with public input was finally adopted by the council in 2015.

A portion of the redevelopment area known as the Jefferson Street Subsection is currently under a redevelopment agreement between the city and Just Block 112, LLC  or Pegasus Partners.

Currently, the agreement allows for a project consisting of two residential towers containing 207 residential units, including 21 affordable units, and a separate hotel at 166 feet over design flood elevation.

Retail and parking would be provided at the base of each building.

The amendments now being considered by the council are intended to create opportunities for the construction of a public recreation facility that includes a community pool, according to an April 1 memo by Jessica Giorgianni, a principal planner for the city.

New amendments

According to Giorgianni, there are no changes to the building height and floor area ratio for base and bonus development in the plan. But a new type of bonus development would be allowed by the plan for projects that either design or build a community pool facility or provide contributions towards its design and construction as negotiated in a Redevelopment Agreement.

The proposed amendments establish parameters for maximum bonus development in the Jefferson Street Subarea of the Western Edge Redevelopment Plan including up to five additional stories on all buildings.

If the developer contributes to the recreation facility the city could grant a bonus floor area ratio which would increase the height up to 166 feet for mixed-use buildings with residential and up to a maximum of 176 feet for non-residential mixed-use buildings.

If non-automated self-parking is utilized and greater than 90 percent of total parking the allowable height could increase up to a maximum of 186 feet for mixed-use buildings with residential, and up to a maximum of 196 feet for nonresidential mixed-use buildings.

Bonus floor area ratio may also increase the allowable height for a hotel in the Jefferson Street Subarea up to a maximum of 216 feet but not more than 15 stories over one story of parking or retail space.

The proposed amendments also continue to require that 10 percent of units be affordable housing. But where the city negotiates with a redeveloper to allow bonus residential development in exchange for public recreation and public pool community benefits, those additional bonus units would not be subject to the 10 percent affordable housing requirement.

As for parking in the Jefferson Street subarea, the redevelopment plan currently allows for 207 residential units. The amendment for bonus development for community pool public benefit would allow a maximum of 150 additional units. These units would not be subject to the parking requirement meaning that the total parking requirement for the entire development of a maximum of 357 units would be 207 parking spaces.

New recreation

Councilman Ramos said the city could get $7.5 million for the new recreation facility, which could be located on a parking lot just north of the city’s Northwest Resiliency Park currently under construction.

He said the goal is for the recreation facility to include an indoor pool that residents could use year-round and be fully funded through developers of Hoboken’s Western Edge.

“We don’t want to spend another taxpayer dollar on acquisition and construction of public space when developers could pay for it through these agreements,” said Ramos.

He said the total cost of the project would depend on how large the facility is and what the public would want to include but he expects the project could be a minimum of $40 million.

He said the facility could be modeled after athletic facilities at top universities such as Rutgers’ new he RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center and Integrated Parking Facility which opened last September.

That facility includes men’s and women’s basketball, gymnastics, and wrestling programs for the university with parking wrapped around its perimeter.

Ramos said the city hopes to renovate the downtown multi-service center on Grand Street and the new uptown facility could serve as a home for its current activities while it is under construction.

Once complete, that would give the city two public recreation facilities

For updates on this and other stories check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.