The report examines the problems and objectives for land development since Jersey City adopted its most recent master plan in 2000. New Jersey Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL) requires a review of the city's plans and regulations every six years.
In Jersey City, the current rapid pace of development is changing the landscape almost monthly, so the Planning Department will prepare amendments to the current master plan for the City Council to possibly adopt next year.
The re-examination report, written by head City Planner Robert Cotter earlier this month, made a number of recommendations regarding historic districts, highways, and redevelopment areas.
The report calls for adding the Sixth Street Embankment to the city's list of Historic Landmarks, to preserve and protect it from future development.
The Embankment is a series of sandstone and granite blocks spanning Sixth Street from Marin Boulevard to Brunswick Street, over which a section of the Pennsylvania Railroad freight line ran from 1902 until the late 1970s. Since 1998, city residents have spearheaded a movement to preserve the Embankment, hoping to transform it into a passive park and nature trail.
But embankment owner and real estate developer Steve Hyman would like to build two-family homes there. Hyman purchased the Embankment from Conrail in July for $3 million. Unless the city forcibly takes over the property, he theoretically has the right to apply to build there.
Hyman is currently fighting the historic designation of the Embankment in court, with a hearing scheduled for this coming Thursday in State Superior Court.
At a meeting this Monday, the Historic Preservation Commission will consider Hyman's subdivision and site plan applications for the homes, which would lead to demolishing four blocks within the Embankment area.
This Tuesday, a special Planning Board meeting will be held to consider all Embankment applications and a Planning Board decision on a related Embankment parcel, where they voted not to allow development on the land. The board will also consider the recommendations of the Historic Preservation Commission regarding the Embankment applications.
The master plan report also calls for a "Warehouse Historic District" to be added to the list of the city's historic districts. This recommendation is a response to a ruling on Nov. 18 handed down by State Superior Court Judge Maurice Gallipoli in which he overturned an ordinance that allowed for the Historic Warehouse District. The Historic Warehouse District ordinance, passed by the City Council in October 2004, had designated 10 city blocks near Newport Mall as the Historic Warehouse District. This was the city's attempt to protect historic buildings such as the artists' lofts at 111 First St., and the Hudson and Manhattan Powerhouse, from demolition. But now, the district does not apply.
Gallipoli's ruling allowed the owner of 111 First St. to proceed with demolishing the building, which has prompted a legal battle between the city and New Gold Equities. The building is also in an overlapping district called the Powerhouse Arts District (see sidebar).
Other recommendations in the report include redeveloping areas such as Jersey Avenue between 12th and 18th Streets.
It also calls for more green space, for revisiting the redevelopment plan for the southern end of Kennedy Boulevard near the Jersey City-Bayonne city line, and for encouraging more residential development.
The report also recommends building a boulevard in place of Route 440, and for the Jersey City Public Works building to be relocated.
Cotter said during the meeting that more mass transit should be installed in the city since all the development is spurring a population growth. A new PATH station near West Side Avenue, where there was previously a railroad station over 50 years ago, is being considered. Sidebar Two residential projects approved
Two new residential projects were approved within the Powerhouse Arts District at Tuesday's Planning Board meeting.
One is Harbor Lights, a three-building, 153-unit complex to be built on First St., Marin Boulevard and Second Street. The other project is the Mondrian, a nine-story, 22-unit building at 154-156 First St.
The Powerhouse Arts District is a redevelopment area consisting of 10 blocks of historic warehouses in Downtown Jersey City that have been designated an arts and entertainment district. When developed, the district will have loft-style condos and rental units, restaurants, clubs, galleries, theaters, and work/live spaces for artists. The district became a reality after an ordinance was passed by the City Council in October last year.
One man questioned the projects, though, attempting to show the restrictiveness and possible contradictions in the district.
Dan Horgan is the lawyer for Lloyd Goldman of New Gold Equities, who owns 111 First St., an eight-building complex in the city's Powerhouse Arts District.
Horgan claimed Tuesday that the Powerhouse Arts District regulations for construction were "unfair," limiting how much developers could build on their properties, including the heights of the structures.
Horgan said he wants to see 111 First St. be re-built like other area high-rises - free of district regulations such as Donald Trump's two 50-plus story buildings to be constructed on Washington Boulevard, less than a block away from 111 First St.
Horgan asked about the heights of the two projects that were being considered. He also asked about setbacks from the street, and ceiling heights. - RK