Concept for Public Works Garage site presented

Residents air concerns about building heights

A rendering of the proposed Urby development from Observer Highway and Park Avenue
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A rendering of the proposed Urby development from Observer Highway and Park Avenue

A new Urby mixed-use residential building has been proposed for Hoboken by the developer, Ironstate Development.

The project would be erected at the site of the city’s public works garage at 256 Observer Hwy. as part of a settlement agreement between the city and the developer. Tradeoffs prevent two 11-story towers from being constructed along the waterfront, and provide approximately 1.4 acres of open space on the city’s west side.

The DPW garage will move out of the First Ward to a not yet determined location uptown.

During a community meeting, the project team presented the proposed development to the public and city council.

The proposal

According to Executive Vice President with Ironstate Development Josiah Wuestneck and Todd Poisson of BKSK Architects, the development will include 30,000 square feet of retail over three floors along Willow Avenue and an Urby Café at the corner of Observer Highway and Park Avenue.

It will be composed of roughly 361 residential units, though that number is not yet finalized, according to Wuestneck, who added that affordable units will be included at a ratio of one affordable housing unit for every nine market-rate units.

Additionally, 159 parking spots will be created in an internal garage for building residents at a ratio of 0.4 per residential unit.

Two loading bays and a garage entrance to the building will be placed on Park Avenue.

The building is shaped like a letter J with the majority of the height and bulk along Observer Highway similar to the Neumann Leathers redevelopment project across Willow Avenue.

On Observer Highway the building will be 16 stories, while on Willow Avenue and Park Avenue it will be nine stories.

Cascading planters, a grand staircase, and a winding ramp to a public plaza that serves as an entrance to the building will be placed along Observer Highway.

According to Poisson, the façade has not yet been decided on, but it will be similar to other Urby buildings in Harrison or Jersey City.

According to Wuestneck, Ironstate hopes to present a more finalized plan to the Planning Board by the end of May.

Height concerns aired

First Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco said he believes the project will be a benefit to the neighborhood.

“Beyond just the blight of the DPW garage and the noise associated with that and moving that out of our residential district, what we are going to be replacing it with is over 30,000 square feet of class A retail space which could take the shape of many different uses – cafes, supermarkets, entertainment venues,” said DeFusco.

But he believes the neighborhood will be concerned with the project height, noting that he was under the impression, as were local residents, that the project would be only eight stories along Willow and Park avenues, which is more closely aligned with other residential buildings in the area.

“It’s news to the subcommittee that the height of Willow Avenue is changing… to say I’m disappointed is an understatement,” he said.

According to Director of Community Development Chris Brown and Wuestneck, the plan stipulates 87 feet over design flood elevation, which is approximately eight stories above the ground-floor commercial space.

DeFusco asked if there was a way to shift the height to Observer Highway to keep the Willow Avenue side at a total of 87 feet tall, which is “less controversial” for area residents.

Second Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher questioned the position of the loading bays wondering if they should be moved to Willow Avenue, asking if it would be better for traffic circulation.

Council Vice President Jen Giattino and at-Large Councilman Jim Doyle indicated that because it is interrupted by Church Square Park, Park Avenue gets less traffic than Willow Avenue.

Neighborhood resident Sean Iaquinto also took issue with the height along Willow Avenue.

“Everyone in the neighborhood was under the impression that we were talking about 86 feet, we are talking about eight stories … not this plus that,” he said.

He said if the building height is increased, then other developments in the area will want the same.

“It just feels like one of those bait-and-switch kind of things where we were told one thing … and then oh well now it’s going to be even higher than you thought,” he said.

As far as the retail space along Willow Avenue, Iaquinto said he would love to see a supermarket like a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods Market move into the space, noting that the nearest grocery store is on Seventh Street.

He also said he would like the city to consider a bike lane along Willow Avenue.

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.