Plans for two 69-story residential skyscrapers were unanimously approved by the Jersey City Planning Board on Tuesday night, paving the way for them to become some of the tallest towers in New Jersey.
The two new towers, which will house a total of 1,606 units, are the next phase of the Urby project, which had gotten started with the initial 69-story tower in Downtown and had opened for leasing in 2017. Urby is a joint venture between Ironstate Development and Roseland Residential Trust, a subsidiary of Mack-Cali.
“We’re very excited about bringing this project before the board,” said Urby’s attorney, Chuck Harrington. “We think it’s another signature project for Jersey City and here on the waterfront. I’m not sure who was part of the board 10 years ago, but this has been in the making for about 10 years.”
The project will be built on the parking lot between the original Urby tower and Plaza 5, starting with a multi-story base, which will then have the two towers built up to 69 stories on the northeast and southwest corner of the base.
The ground floor will include a lobby, leasing offices, retail space and a cafe on the southeast corner. Above the floor will be a health club and health club roof, followed by multiple floors of parking and residential spaces, and an outdoor deck on the ninth floor with a swimming and amenities.
The northeast tower, titled Tower Two, will have 60 studios, 442 one-bedrooms and 257 two-bedrooms for a total of 759 units, while the southwest tower, titled Tower Three, will have 36 studios, 685 one-bedrooms and 126 two-bedrooms for a total of 847 units.
Architect Erikjan Vermeulen explained the design for the two towers, saying that they want to make them and the current one a “family of each other” but a bit different from each other and have their own identity. To that end, Tower Two will look more graphical and have horizontal lining, and Tower Three will appear to be composed of vertical blocks.
Architect Ed Shim also explained that they also plan to have up to 164 hotel rooms built the same as the residential units on one floor between the two towers, with a mix of the same types of units available for residential. He later clarified that the hotel units will be managed by the developer and a soon-to-be-determined hotel operator.
The garage structure of the project is planned to have 272 parking spaces, with a valet option of up to 500 spaces, and 42 of the parking spaces will have electric vehicle charging stations to meet state requirements. There will also be 811 bike storage spaces, some which will be in the outside plaza.
Shim noted that the vehicle count is subject to change based on pavement striping design, in which they asked for a condition on that.
Architect Joe Melillo also went over the proposed landscaping around the site, which includes adding street tress, widening Bay Street, and a lawn area, a dog run, and seating and tables on the south side.
Board Chairman Christopher Langston questioned Urby on the parking, saying that while they’re going to have 272 parking spaces, having up to 500 with the valet is “a big fluctuation”, and asked how they will find those extra spaces.
Shim responded that there is a “significant” amount of drive aisle space because of how the garage is designed, and that the drive aisles can provide parking.
But board attorney Santo Alampi objected to doing parking in a drive aisle, calling it a safety issue and that it does not count as parking space. While he did say it was an operational issue rather than a site plan issue, he reiterated that the Planning Board will have to approve a set number of parking spaces.
Langston also agreed with Alampi, and eventually told Harrington that he was fine with 272 spaces, and that if they want to put the valet scenario as a condition, they would have to submit plans to the city and they would go back to the board if the city agrees it’s a deviation.
During public comment, a seven minute back-and-forth had also ensued between Alampi and Kevin Brown, the New Jersey State Director and Executive Vice President of SEIU 32BJ, when the latter had tried to speak out against Ironstate over their treatment of workers.
Alampi attempted to steer him into how the development articulated “inequity in the development without touching on labor” which Brown disputed and said that he was going to talk about Ironstate’s practices.
“How is the project not consistent with the Master Plan?” asked Alampi near the end of the dispute. “The only thing I’ve heard from you is this alleged known history of the developer for violating laws. I don’t even know what that means.”
“Because you haven’t allowed me to even explain what that means and their history,” replied Brown.
“Tell me what laws are being violated!” exclaimed Alampi.
“Ironstate Development violated the Jersey City standard wage law…” said Brown before being cut off by Alampi.
“You cannot continue,” said Alampi. “We are not going to hear the labor dispute at this board.”
“This not a labor dispute!” said Brown.
“It’s a labor issue!” replied Alampi.
After public comment ended, board eventually gave their praises to the Urby project as they unanimously voted 7-0 to approve the site plans.
“I love the way the buildings sort of just dance with each other,” said Vice Chair Dr. Orlando Gonzalez. “I know this is hokey, but they look really good, especially if you’re seeing it from Manhattan over here. Obviously the Jersey City skyline has drastically changed, and these two additions are just going to be such a beautiful addition to to that area.”