HOBOKEN, NJ – "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."
While Issac Newton was a physicist, he could have been a Hoboken real estate developer—where the knock-on effect from one development in such a tight location will typically lend to creating the need for another.
Last month, Hoboken City Council approved its North End Redevelopment Plan, mapping out the future for construction north of the 14th Street Viaduct, near the border with Weehawken. The plan, which was initially introduced to the council on January 27 and amended to incorporate residents’ interests, was intended to modernize 30 acres of land currently zoned for industrial use in the 5th Ward. It will include the construction of a Hudson-Bergen Light Rail station at 15th Street, public space to connect to a city-wide circuit, a protected bike lane, and raising the streets to prevent underground flooding.
Missing from that plan was the location for the new DPW, which became necessary after the current Municipal Garage became part of the deal with Monarch/Ironstate Developers—potentially ending years of ongoing litigation over property on the Hoboken Waterfront.
Hoboken-based developer Bijou Properties announced a proposal for the public works garage on Friday that would create a, "mixed-use art and retail destination with a City Hall annex". The concept includes more than 12,500 square feet of ground-floor retail, 478 residential units (430 market rate and 48 affordable housing), and a 75,000 square-foot facility for a City Hall annex and public works garage with municipal offices. Bijou Properties says it will design, construct, and deliver the property according to the City’s specifications, and a significant financial contribution towards the City Hall annex and public works garage.
“Since we opened our office above the Pilsener Haus Biergarten nine years ago, we’ve not only watched the North End neighborhood develop its own unique vibe, but we’ve been part of that evolution by hosting the Uptown Farmers Market under the viaduct and bringing in retail tenants like Gravity Vault, Hudson Table, Orale, and the Bwè Kafe/Little City Books collaboration,” said Larry Bijou, Managing Partner of Bijou Properties. “We have a personal stake in the success of this neighborhood and are excited about how this art and retail mixed use project will complement the existing uses to make the neighborhood a destination, bring round-the-clock foot traffic, and meet the city’s infrastructure needs. We look forward to listening to and working with Hoboken’s elected officials and community members to create a project that everyone can be proud of.”
The retail component would be located along 15th Street and Clinton Street, with the City Hall annex and public works garage located on the northern half of the property on 16th Street. The proposed agreement would allow the City of Hoboken to vacate and relocate out of its current facility on Observer Highway, thereby clearing the way for the agreement with Ironstate Developers regarding the Monarch property. On Wednesday, April 7, Hoboken City Council will meet to review the proposal.
“By creating a new, state-of-the-art municipal garage in the North End, Hoboken will finally be able to move forward with preventing large-scale residential development on our waterfront at the Monarch site, allow the City to acquire 1.4 acres of open space in West Hoboken, and provide for 15,000 square feet of commercial and retail space to further revitalize downtown Hoboken, a win-win-win for our community,” said Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla. “And, this proposal also eliminates the need for a temporary garage next to the Northwest Resiliency Park, reflecting a commitment I made to the 5th Ward. I'm confident that the City Council will see the merits of this proposal and vote to begin negotiations on Wednesday with the developer to make this a reality.”
Fifth Ward Councilman Phil Cohen issued a statement, saying, “In response to the concerns of many residents in Northwest Hoboken, I committed to working on identifying a new location for the Department of Public Works (DPW) Garage more appropriate than the City’s North Lot at 13th and Jefferson. As you may recall, the DPW Garage must be relocated from its Observer Hwy. and Newark St. location by September 2022 so the City can finalize the settlement of the Monarch litigation -- forever ending the threat of two 11-story condominiums being built across from the Hudson Tea Building on the 15th Street piers.”
Cohen indicated that he was “pleased” with the announcement from Bijou, adding, “I look forward to supporting this plan to activate an exciting new art and retail district that will vitalize a new northern gateway destination for Hoboken and the 5th Ward.”
Second Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher expressed her concerns with the proposal, telling TAPinto Hoboken, “Although this proposal that Mayor Bhalla is endorsing has some attractive features it is contrary to the Northwest Plan that was just approved after five years in the making, effectively eliminates the linear park which is central to the plan, gives significant financial upside to one developer while putting the entire $20 plus million cost of building out the public works garage on the backs of Hoboken taxpayers.” Fisher added, “There are other alternatives that are available, and we’ve asked the mayor to consider that would put Hoboken residents first and would be much better for our entire community.“
Others have indicated their concern with the sudden, significant amendments to the plan—particularly the impact on the long pedestrian park that was a major feature of the agreed upon redevelopment plan.
In his statement to TAPinto Hoboken, First Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco said, “When I abstained from the North End Redevelopment Plan, I did so because I feared the lack of definitive planning wouldn’t benefit existing residents long-term. Here we are, less than one month later, and the administration has proposed changes to the part of the plan that excited everyone—the linear park.” DeFusco added, “The rush to plop our DPW garage in the middle of what should be a developer-funded community park when there are countless other properties that would be more suitable, is the very definition of poor planning. I would hope the Mayor follows through with his commitment to find a safe and more appropriate location for the DPW garage.”
Other concerns continue to resonate among residents who live in the area—an area that is currently seeing significant heavy vehicle traffic amid ongoing work projects.
Matt Majer, co-founder Northwest Hoboken Homeowners Alliance, said, “I am far from anti-development, but I have a number of concerns with the content of this proposal.” Specifically, Majer says, “while some tenants may be fine living above garbage trucks and snow plows, how does the administration propose the route such heavy vehicle traffic around the neighborhood?” He went on to cite a recent incident, in which Majer claims, “a child was almost killed,” when a cement truck working on the NW Resiliency Park blew out a tire and sent a piece of the curb shooting through a glass door at 1300 Grand Street. Majer also echoes sentiment about the process, saying, “this proposal flies in the face of the recently approved North End Redevelopment Plan something we taxpayers paid $350,000 to WRT to develop with significant community and city council input over the past five years.”
If the Monarch deal is to be settled, fact is that at some point, Hoboken will need to find a location for its new DPW complex. The questions now are if not here, where—and if not Bijou, who?
Hoboken City Council meets this coming Wednesday, April 7.
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