The Hoboken Zoning Board of Adjustment is in the process of reviewing an 80,000 square foot, $110 million project that would bring a bowling alley and rock climbing gym to the city’s rapidly-expanding northwest neighborhood. The mixed-use project is being proposed by the same developers who in 2012 renovated the building which now holds Pilsener Haus, and would contain two floors of commercial and retail space below 10 stories of market-rate and affordable housing.
The bowling alley is being envisioned as a hip spot for families and young people, while the climbing gym, which will be operated by Gravity Vault, will complement other recreational activities in the area, including a site across the street that could become the city’s next public park.
Above the bowling alley will be a floor of office space to act as a noise buffer between the businesses on the ground floor and the 267 residential units above.
The proposed development would remodel large portions of an existing building between Madison and Jefferson streets just south of the 14th Street Viaduct. Nearly 45 percent of the building would be saved, and the new additions would be LEED-certified, meaning the building is environmentally-friendly. A total of 27 units are to be earmarked as affordable housing, while 46 more will be three-bedroom apartments. A 350-space parking garage will occupy the building’s inner core.
“These buildings can be something.” – Hany Ahmed
If approved by the zoning board at a June 17 meeting, the developers could break ground as early as August. The bowling alley could even open as early as next summer.
Up and coming part of town
The building is currently owned by local builders Marl Villamar and Hany Ahmed. They say that to compete with major developers who typically focus on residential-only projects, they focus on mixed-use buildings.
“We’re trying to recapture the value of an area of town which right now doesn’t have a lot going on but has major potential,” said Villamar. “We believe that mixed-use projects are the best way to do that.”
Ahmed said that by including space for offices and stores, in addition to the climbing gym and bowling alley, 1300 Jefferson could be the center of a vibrant new neighborhood in northern Hoboken.
“We don’t think that building only residential projects is good urban planning,” he said. “It’s not an exclusive development; it’s an inclusive development. It allows the public, including those who don’t live there, to still come to conduct business and have fun.”
Ahmed also noted his and Villamar’s recycling part of the existing structure in homage to the neighborhood’s past.
“Using as much of the existing structure is good because it’s really about revitalizing a neighborhood,” he said, noting that he and Villamar, in addition to heading the Pilsener Haus project, own other land in the area. “When people see a dormant property, they make the false assumption that it has to stay dormant, but these buildings can be something.”
Ahmed and Villamar are asking the zoning board to grant them several variances they require to build the project. Variances are permission to build outside of what Hoboken’s zoning laws allow. As it is, the entire neighborhood is zoned for industrial use, according to decades-old laws. But the developers believe the project fits all of the criteria for future development that Mayor Dawn Zimmer, the city’s master plan, and members of the City Council have outlined in recent months.
“We’re mixed-use, that’s something the mayor spoke a lot about in her State of the City address,” said Ahmed. “We’ve got three-bedrooms to honor the changing demographics of the city’s population, we’re giving back to the community in the way of two great recreational opportunities, and the building is very green.”
In addition to having several stormwater detention and retention containers that could cut down rainwater runoff in the neighborhood by up to 85 percent, the building will contain a regeneration grid. This means that any power unused by tenants of the building could be flushed out into the city’s main grid to power emergency service buildings in the event of a power outage.
“[The zoning board] has a very good poker face, so we’re not quite sure where they stand,” said Villamar. “I haven’t gotten a negative sense from any of them though. We think it’s a good plan because all of its ingredients come from the city, so we hope they think so too.”
The meeting on the project had not been scheduled as of press time.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org