Hoboken officials are pressing forward with their vision for a redevelopment plan for the NJ Transit rail yards which would include new residential and commercial buildings and renovations to the historic Ferry Terminal and Warrington Plaza.
In a virtual meeting on March 15, the project, which has been rebranded as Hoboken Connect, was said by Mayor Ravi Bhalla to be “a historic opportunity” for the city, with the area having been proposed for redevelopment for almost two decades.
“Sometimes you get used to things the way they are, but don’t really imagine the way things could be,” he said. “I really view the Hoboken Terminal as not just Hoboken’s, but also New Jersey’s hidden gems. If you go to the second story, and you see that the main floor and the surrounding areas – to really create something special on a statewide and national scale is all there.”
The plan was previously amended back in February 2020, due to the proposed Rebuild by Design flood protection structure. The amendments call for three development sites, as well as renovations to the terminal and plaza. The latest presentation focused on all of that, Hudson Place and the bus terminal, but excluded Site 3.
Brian Barry, the lead designer from LCOR, the designated developers for the project, said that the project’s “successful integration” of each component both public and private is the key to its overall success and their ability to maximize benefits both locally and statewide, such as affordable housing, infrastructure improvements and investments in mass transit.
“Throughout the design process, we were focused on realizing each of these elements and tying it into the project to ensure that what we realized was not only to the benefit of New Jersey Transit as the landowner, but to the city of Hoboken and its residents as well,” he said.
For the historic Ferry Terminal, the plan is to renovate both the first and second floors of the building. On the first floor, the plan calls for a market space, a lobby and a bike room for 150 bikes.
Frank Prial of Beyer Blinder Belle, an architectural firm, said that their idea is to provide amenities and assets to those that use the building on a daily basis, as well as those who see it as a destination to visit.
On the second floor, the lobby and long hall has been identified as a historic space. The planners want to keep the historic character and enhance it. The rest of the floor is envisioned as programmable space for either dining kiosks, performances or museum opportunities. They also want to open up the north facade and add new glazing windows to bring in natural light inside.
Warrington Plaza right outside the terminal is being envisioned as a public space, as well as being planned for flood resilience, with the plaza serving like a drainage basin for the area.
“It has history over the past century in response to changing transportation, and really the needs of the terminal,” said Molly Bourne, principal of MNLA, an a landscape architect firm. “But the plaza also has a very significant history as a public space.”
They’re also looking to maintain emergency access and respond to the needs for New Jersey Transit for the plaza.
Site 1 of the redevelopment plan is proposed to be a 20-story 639,000 square foot commercial building, and Site 2 will be a residential building with 389 units, with 79 set aside as affordable housing.
Lastly, the design of Hudson Place will be subject to a public community meeting and design process run by the city.
The timeline for the project includes getting the redevelopment plan and agreement approved and doing the Hudson Place community design process this year, and look to begin construction in the second quarter of 2023, with a target finish date of 2029.
When asked by Council President Michael Russo on the timeline of what would be built, Barry said that they would start with the residential building and Hudson Place and move towards the office building, with the Ferry Terminal and Warrington Plaza being worked on simultaneously.
“The intent is throughout the entire process is to be moving with private development and public infrastructure improvements simultaneously,” said Barry.
Councilman Michael DeFusco, whose 1st Ward includes the redevelopment area, expressed optimism on seeing the project moving forward. “I couldn’t be more happy to see and have worked with Brian Berry, having worked with my colleagues on the council, Director Christopher Brown, the mayor, all stakeholders, to develop a concept that really makes sense for our community,” he said at the meeting.
Russo also echoed DeFusco’s optimism. “As Council President, I have made it part of my duties to bridge divides and promote compromise,” he said. “This has been a collaborative effort all around.”
Amendments for the redevelopment will be put up for introduction at the City Council’s upcoming meeting today on March 23.