At the latest meeting on the proposed Hoboken municipal complex project, the city reviewed the design preferred by residents in a city-wide survey, and also revealed a Plan B for a temporary public works facility in case an ongoing feud between the city and the property owner of the site they’re looking to acquire for the complex doesn’t pan out.
The Bhalla administration wants to construct the proposed project on the northwest end of the city to house public safety facilities, city offices, and other community and recreational facilities. They had recently conducted the survey to see which design was preferred by residents.
According to the survey results of about 1,110 responses, the highest plurality of respondents (41 percent) wanted a facility that includes a pool, parking garage, recreational center and a field house.
The city had also asked what kind of services, programs and spaces residents want in the uptown library branch.
With over 450 responses, the most requested programs were children and teen programs, arts and educational workshops and guest speakers/author series, while the most requested spaces were for flexible reading, technological equipment, and for events and meetings.
Presenting the architectural designs, John Nastasi of Nastasi Architects said that the field house and the recreational center would be located on the roof above the administrative offices and parking garages respectively, while the pool would be over the community building. They also proposed a protected bike way on 15th Street.
“What we were looking at was, ‘What’s the character of the spaces?’ especially in reviewing the results of the survey,” he said. “Here, we’re showing a building that is extremely social on 15th Street, and extremely functional along 16th Street, and we liked the way that building was organized.”
Regarding the proposed pool, Nastasi said that they have to look into what kind of pool is needed, and that they want to see a pool that can be used year-round. To that end, they’re looking at a potential retractable glass ceiling for the pool that can be closed in the winter months and can be opened for the summer.
The total project is expected to cost at least $192.5 million, according to the city. $115 million would be for the civic center, $40 million would be for the recreational amenities, $18 million would be for site work, and $19.5 million is for site acquisition. If the retractable walls and roof option are added, it would cost the project another $4 million.
Business Administrator Jason Freeman said that the city is looking to fund the project with minimal taxpayer impact. They’re currently looking at getting $55 million from developer contributions, $85 million from assets for redevelopments, and $14 million in grants.
The remaining balance of $38.5 million would be covered by contributions from the Hoboken Public Library, municipal complex revenues, and other potential funding sources.
The administration hopes to build the municipal complex at 1501 Adams St., the site of the Poggi Press building. But they’ve been met with resistance from Charlie Poggi, the property owner, who has said that he wants to redevelop the property himself.
The City Council has adopted an ordinance that will allow the city to either acquire the property or condemn it via eminent domain. But a $40 million bond ordinance to acquire the property was tabled through multiple meetings until being eventually pulled off the agenda entirely at last week’s meeting.
The bond ordinance needed six votes out of nine to be adopted, but the first introduction was voted 5-4, with Council members Michael DeFusco, Tiffanie Fisher, Ruben Ramos and Jen Giattino voting no.
Freeman blamed those council members for stalling on acquiring the property by this spring. “It is unfortunate that a minority of council members have chosen either not to participate or prevent this project from advancing altogether,” he said.
The administration said that because of the blockade in the City Council, they will need to identify temporary locations for a public works facility, as they will need to vacate their current DPW garage by Nov. 2024 as part of the Monarch settlement agreement, and will continue to seek acquisition of the Poggi Press site.
Environmental Services Director Jennifer Gonzalez said the city-owned properties that they’re looking at for temporary operations are 201 Marshall Street, 1301 Jefferson Street, and the Monarch Site that the city now owns.
Gonzalez also said that the city may be able to use the Poggi Press site for some of their public works operations if they can acquire the property “expeditiously” and phase the construction of the municipal complex.
“We don’t have estimated costs for the temporary facilities yet, and that is because we first need to know if we will be able to utilize a portion of 1501 Adams St. for our temporary operations, while facing construction,” she said. “That will inform whether we need to construct a temporary structure for interior storage operations and parking.”
She added that if the temporary structure isn’t created there, they would likely look at 201 Marshall St., and potentially look at the North Lot for office trailers. She also said that if further delays force them to take those options, there would be “significant” costs for building at those sites.
In the meantime, Thom Ammirato, a spokesperson for Poggi, said that any decision regarding creating a temporary site at the Poggi Press site is for Poggi to make. “It was pretty widely recognized given the tight timeline that it’s gonna be tough to meet the Nov. 2024 deadline,” he said.
Matt Majer of the Concerned Citizens Information Exchange also criticized the administration of “continu[ing] to lie to the public to serve their own career aspirations” regarding the proposal.
“As with the Hoboken High School, members of the Concerned Citizens Information Exchange are not opposed to a library annex, supporting our police and fire teams, or even new community resources, but we are against the lack of transparency, ‘propaganda by survey,’ and general patronizing by this administration,” he said in a email.