HOBOKEN, NJ - Curtailing an ongoing eminent domain brawl, Hoboken Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla announced an agreement with Academy Bus to acquire an additional acre of land to double the size of the current Southwest Resiliency Park. Hoboken will acquire “Block 10” for $11 million from Academy, which sits adjacent to the current Southwest Resiliency Park. The City will finance the acquisition utilizing various grants and the Hoboken Open Space Trust Fund, with no impact on the 2021 municipal budget.
“After many months of negotiating with Academy, I’m pleased we have come to an agreement that will finally double the size of our Southwest Resiliency Park,” Bhalla said Wednesday. “This agreement not only paves the way to create more open space in our neighborhood, but also does so without trading massive residential density rights. I look forward to working with the community on the design of this park, while providing immediate benefits to the neighborhood with a pop-up park this summer.”
The $11 million figure is not too shy of the amount proposed by Academy in the initial stages of this battle. In an online video posted in 2017, Academy’s CEO, Francis Tedesco acknowledged the need for a park in that area, but felt Academy deserves better compensation than the proposed $4.5 million initially on offer from the City.
“We offered up the park because we always knew that this southwest zone needed a park,” says Tedesco. “We’re in the business of making deals, we understand the need and we understand the want,” adding, “we submitted an appraisal, and the value of $13 million is quite fair.”
Academy has also pledged to continue fighting for the land. “This is our family-owned land, and we will not give it up,” says Tedesco.
Furthermore, the company had previously proposed building a 17-story building and a smaller park. That plan was shot down due to concerns of overcrowding in the area.
"Unfortunately, Academy has demanded a development deal inconsistent with the city's Master Plan and the Southwest Redevelopment Plan unanimously passed by the City Council in 2017," Bhalla,said in 2019. "The overdevelopment demanded by Academy would massively increase residential density and badly exacerbate the already unacceptable traffic problems in the area."
A lot has changed since then—except for the need to alleviate flooding concerns in Southwest Hoboken while improving quality of life in an emerging residential sector of town. This agreement also allows Academy the ability to add 25 residential units (which includes 5 units of affordable housing) to the existing permitted density on the property Academy owns adjacent to the Southwest Resiliency Park.
“I’m extremely excited to add Block 10 for the expansion of the Southwest Resiliency Park,” said Council President Ruben Ramos. “It has been a long road, but the park will serve as the centerpiece for the continuing revitalization of Southwest Hoboken. We will be working to have the space available for use as a pop-up park for the summer and also working with the public as to what will be included in the final design.”
The $11 million payment to Academy will be funded by $900,000 of grant funding from Hudson County’s Open Space Trust Fund, $1 million of grant funding from Green Acres, and the balance from the Municipal Open Space Trust fund, which is money dedicated to the acquisition and development of open space in Hoboken.
The Hoboken City Council is expected to vote on first reading of the bond ordinance totaling $8.1 million to acquire Block 10 at the City Council meeting on Wednesday, April 7. The City will also utilize a previously authorized $4.9 million bond ordinance for the acquisition cost, the design cost of the permanent Southwest Resiliency Park, and associated soft costs.
Bhalla, Ramos, and the Office of Community Development will host a community meeting to solicit feedback from the community, and discuss the acquisition of the property and potential uses of a pop-up park in the coming weeks.
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