The Hoboken City Council has designated 1500 Clinton LLC, Bijou Properties, as the conditional redeveloper of 1500 Clinton St., after much discussion.
At the center of the conversation was the developer’s proposal revealed the week prior for a mixed-use building with a City Hall annex, Department of Public Works garage, Office of Emergency Management command center, retail space, outdoor art displays, and roughly 500 residential units.
Though the proposal was not on the council agenda, Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher raised concerns that by designating Bijou Properties as the conditional redeveloper, the council would be signaling to the administration that it supports the proposed development which does not adhere to the newly adopted North End Redevelopment Plan, and would result in the elimination of a section of the linear park.
“If we approve this tonight, we are saying to the mayor and the administration do not consider any other alternatives,” she said.
But Business Administrator Jason Freeman said designating a conditional redeveloper did nothing more than provide the city with the ability to negotiate and cover associated costs.
He noted that the city needed to move quickly to find a permanent home for the public works garage due to the Monarch settlement with Ironstate.
That agreement cancels construction of two waterfront towers and provides the city with public open space on the west side. In exchange, Ironstate can construct a mixed-use residential building on the existing DPW garage site on Observer Highway. The city must vacate the site by September 2022.
‘Worst possible deal’
Fisher questioned whether the proposed new garage could be completed in 17 months, but Freeman said the developer is aware of the timeline.
“They understand that the garage needs to get built in our time frame,” Freeman said. “We can’t formally have [negotiations] in a manner that’s going to allow us to understand the financials, understand the real scope of what they’re going to do, and how they’re going to do it until we hit the next milestone. And that’s what tonight is,” he said of the designation.
Fisher said the proposal is “the worst possible deal for Hoboken. This deal literally could not be any worse,” noting that the city would still have to pay for the garage and that if approved, it would have a “rippling effect” on future development in the area.
While the council adopted the resolution designating Bijou Properties as the conditional redeveloper with a 7-1 vote, several council members said that they do not support the proposal in its current form, including Council President Ruben Ramos and Councilmen Jim Doyle and Michael Russo.
“I’m supportive of this vote tonight, but I’m not supportive of bonding for the municipal garage,” said Russo. “I’m not supportive of just 10 percent affordable housing in this project. I am not supportive of 12 stories in this project.”
“If that proposal was before us tonight I would vote no,” said Ramos.
In a letter to the council sent before the meeting, Mayor Ravi Bhalla said Bijou is the only property owner willing to build a municipal garage on their own land in the time frame allotted, noting that the site is an ideal location for a municipal garage next to the sewerage authority and not directly adjacent to any residential properties.
He also noted that the city has a good track record with Bijou Properties, having worked together to temporarily facilitate COVID-19 testing on their property with Riverside Medical Group.
As for the portion of the linear park that would be eliminated under the current proposal, Bhalla said, “My view of acquiring 1.4 acres of public land at 8th and Monroe for a new park as a land swap in the Monarch Project, as well as preserving our uptown waterfront, substantially outweighs the downside of losing one portion of a linear park that hasn’t even been built yet.”
The city and the developer will begin negotiations before a proposal is finalized and brought before the city council for approval.