In spite of the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, builders and developers broke ground on projects in almost every local town in 2013, looking to capitalize on the county’s geographic prominence and influx of young and wealthy residents.
For much of the past decade, the LeFrak Organization’s massive Newport development project, which transformed the Jersey City waterfront and changed the way builders envisioned Gold Coast projects, has dominated the development discussion in Hudson County. But with LeFrak unveiling the final portion of its project, a public park and three final buildings just north of the Hoboken border, in April, the focus shifted toward future projects elsewhere in Jersey City.
Less than a mile from Newport, on the corner of Jersey Avenue and 18th Street, the 155-unit Cast Iron Lofts opened in February, and is being marketed as the first step towards the development of a new neighborhood known as SoHo West. The project is being built by City Home and Gardens, a group that previously constructed several luxury complexes in Hoboken and Jersey City such as The Courtyard at Jefferson and The Cliffs in Jersey City.
Just south of Exchange Place, partners Ironstate Development and the Kushner Real Estate Group (of Hoboken and Bridgewater, respectively) have broken ground on an 11-story residential and commercial project that will allow for over 400 apartments on 80 acres in the Liberty Harbor Redevelopment District. The project is close to the Marin Boulevard Hudson-Bergen Light Rail station.
In Journal Square, an area where Mayor Steven Fulop wants to spur development through tax abatements, the KRE Group is set to begin work on the massive Journal Square Center Towers. The project consists of three towers ranging from 54 to 70 stories in height that could break ground in early 2014. The group, whose previous Jersey City projects include 225 Grand St. and Grove Pointe on Marin Boulevard, was recently granted a 30-year tax abatement by the city.
Just across the street from the Journal Square PATH station, the Hartz Mountain Corporation finalized plans on a 240 unit, 13-story apartment building, making it nearly a perfect location for people seeking public transportation alternatives.
And Paul and Eric Silverman, long credited with revitalizing the Hamilton Park area as attractive to new residents and entrepreneurs alike, broke ground on two new projects in 2013. Already responsible for developing the JC Lofts, Hamilton Square, Majestic Theatre Condominiums, and the Schroeder Lofts, the brothers broke ground on a new seventh-story development located on the corner of Grove Street and Montgomery Street. They also broke ground on a building on Ninth Street, also near Hamilton Park, which will house 25 apartment units and the Scandinavian School of Jersey City, a multilingual and multicultural school.
The mile-square city saw some new development, mainly in the environmentally-friendly sector. The Edge Lofts building, constructed by green developer Larry Bijou, opened early in 2013 on Clinton and Fourteenth Streets. The 35-unit building was recently designated as LEED Platinum-certified, the highest honor for environmentally-friendly development.
Bijou also broke ground on Park Place, a $131 million 12-story mixed-use building that will feature 212 apartment homes, 13,000 square feet of retail space, 32,000 square feet of educational space and a six level parking garage at 1415 Park Ave.
On the waterfront, a new 14-story commercial building broke ground just south of the W Hotel, making it the final piece of the puzzle in the city’s master plan for its 26-acre waterfront. Textbook giant Pearson Education signed a 15-year lease as the building’s first tenant, bringing 900 jobs. The building, developed by SJP Properties, will create approximately 600 construction jobs and will be LEED Silver Certified, highlighting its distinction as environmentally friendly.
Hoboken activists and officials have taken a stand against “overdevelopment” so some big projects failed to get off the ground.
NJ Transit has floated several plans to develop its Observer Highway property, near the railroad station, as commercial and residential property. But they have been sparring with Mayor Dawn Zimmer over how high and dense to build.
Throughout 2013, Zimmer and representatives from LCOR, the firm NJ Transit has hired to lead the project, attempted to compromise on the number of buildings and square footage. The city has said that it wants a 2 million square foot project, while LCOR’s proposal is closer to 3 million square feet.
Meanwhile, the future of the long argued-over Monarch Project, a pair of 11-story luxury buildings on a pier at Fifteenth Street to be built by Hoboken-based Ironstate, was called into question in December. The City Council voted in favor of a citywide ban on pier development.
It was an exciting year for development in Weehawken. Developers broke ground and announced plans for construction on the last open slices of the township’s waterfront property.
Drivers heading past Weehawken/Hoboken border may have noticed the construction of a 10-story building between the Willow Avenue and Park Avenue bridges.
The 150-unit apartment complex, complete with a pool, gym, and weight room, had taken almost six years to get off the ground. The newest plan provides for all one- and two-bedrooms, and includes four stories of parking. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the Shades neighborhood, Tom and Scott Heagney, the father and son development team spearheading the project, went through a long process of adding disaster mitigation safeguards to the building, including moving all electrical components well above the ground floor.
In November, Turner and a group of developers announced that over the next two years, developers will build two connecting Marriott hotels on the waterfront: a 226-room Renaissance by Marriott and a 154-room Residence Inn for extended stays. The hotel complex will be erected over an existing five-story garage that opened this summer, and will be adjacent to the Port Imperial Ferry Terminal.
Each hotel will have its own entrance and lobby, but they will be connected on the sixth floor. Guests will share access to the outdoor terrace, pool, fitness center, a high-end restaurant on the sixth floor, and a function space for up to 750 seated guests.
Roseland Development, which built the existing garage, entered into a contract to sell the air rights for the space above the garage to the hotel developer. The developer is a partnership of Portsmouth, N.H.-based XSS Hotels and Colwen Management.
Secaucus saw less development this year than it did in 2012, when the Atlantic Realty Development Corporation began phases three and four of its Xchange at Secaucus Junction project. In March, the site’s developers, Atlantic Realty Development Corporation, announced Phase III and IV of their plan, which will include a marina on the Hackensack River waterfront with restaurants, stores, and a recreation center.
Phase III holds 317 residential units opened in April and construction began on Phase IV over the summer.
The town did make significant progress on its Harmon Meadow development. Hartz Mountain Industries has been reinventing the development’s retail area on Route 3, adding two restaurant choices this year and planning two hotels within the next two years.
The company’s office building at 450 Harmon Meadow Blvd. was torn down this year. In the place of an outdated building came a hamburger restaurant last month and then a chicken wing eatery this month.
The company is also planning to open a 170-room hotel in the area, but did not give many details. They estimated it will open within 18 to 24 months.
In addition, a 150-room Marriott Residence will open in the first quarter next year, replacing an old six-screen movie theater on the site.
The developers also demolished an eight-screen movie theater two to three years ago and replaced it with an LA Fitness.
West New York
A controversial development project along West New York’s Palisades Cliffs was approved this year on Kennedy Boulevard East. Residents clashed with out-of-town developer Capodagli Properties throughout 2012 over a proposed residential high-rise on the Boulevard East site of a long-vacant Exxon gas station, but the project was approved by the town’s Zoning Board in the spring.
The proposed 13-story building is called the Meridia le Boulevard, and will hold 123 rental units and sit on 13,194 square feet of land.
At the end of the year, the town’s zoning board also approved development that caused controversy, called the Felice. Requiring variances similar to those awarded to the Meridia (such as for number of floors and lack of distance from nearby buildings), the project was delayed for more than a year due to resident protests. The 35-unit building will be constructed on the corner of 60th Street and Boulevard East.
Elsewhere in West New York, Mayor Felix Roque and developer Dean Mon cut the ribbon in March on two new apartment complexes, the Washington and the Jefferson, that together make up Phase I of the Jaclyn Heights affordable housing building project on Washington Street and 58th Street.
In densely populated Union City, there were no major development projects this year, but a group of Hudson County veterans found a home there. They recently moved into a new 18-unit building specifically for those who have served in the armed forces.
Located on 40th Street in Union City, the facility was established on Hudson County residents who served in the armed forces, have a permanent disability, and are either homeless or nearly homeless. It was built at a cost of $4.7 million in a partnership between private and government agencies.
“Homes for Heroes” is funded by $1.3 million in grants from state and federal entities. A
local not-for-profit sponsor, the North Hudson Community Action Corporation (NHCAC), will contribute job training, social work, and counseling for the residents.
Al Sullivan, Joe Passantino and Art Schwartz contributed to this report. To comment on this story on-line, go to our website, www.hudsonreporter.com, and comment below. Dean DeChiaro may be reached at email@example.com
New parks in most towns
As developers rushed throughout 2013 to grab up the last bits of undeveloped land around Hudson County, municipalities focused on how to preserve open and recreational space for the community.
In Hoboken, the city government cut the ribbon on a new uptown park, 1600 Park. This park, at the city’s border with Weehawken, currently consists of an athletic field, a dog run, and a raised earth hill, or viewing mound, that will provide a good vantage point for sports matches.
The field, which has been planned since 2006 when the city purchased the land, will provide space for soccer, baseball, and lacrosse, as well as just about any other sport imaginable, including hurling, a popular Irish sport enjoyed by many Hobokenites.
Zimmer and co. also managed to take ownership of a small 1-acre parking lot on the corner of Jackson Street between Paterson Avenue and Observer Highway. The new southwest park could break ground this year. The city used its right to eminent domain to acquire the land, and is currently in a planning process including several public meetings regarding how residents feel the park should be constructed.
In West New York, West New York Mayor Felix Roque reopened two public parks in May and June that had undergone extensive renovations using federal funding. Both parks – Dewey and Fillmore Park – got awards from the New Jersey Society of Municipal Engineers.
Additional plans are under way to improve the municipal pool, Miller Park, and Washington Park in the next year.
In Union City, a plan that began as controversial got off the ground in the summer after Mayor Brian Stack announced plans to redo his city’s entire section of Washington Park (the park borders Jersey City, and parts are run by that municipality as well as the county). Some residents initially expressed concerns over the number of existing trees that would be cut down in order to expand the city’s little league field to make it more compatible for other sports, but Stack argued that beautifying the city’s gateway and providing more space for youngsters was more important.
And in Secaucus, one of the city’s oldest parks received a full makeover, courtesy of a $1.6 million grant from the county’s Open Space fund. Buchmuller Park, at the center of the town, saw improvements to its lighting and landscaping, as well as the installation of new athletic turf on its baseball field, new bocce courts, and a new children’s playground.
Last year, North Bergen and Guttenberg announced plans for a waterfront park on River Road shared by both towns, which is funded partially through the county’s Open Space Trust Fund. The majority of the money will come from two New Jersey Green Acres Grants.
Transportation updates: Biking and walking
Hudson County is known for numerous avenues of public transportation – commuter trains, light rail trains, the PATH train, the ferries, and buses. While 2012 was marked by significant expansions of public transportation infrastructure, this past year – 2013 – saw several advances to alternative transportation, including walking and cycling.
Elected officials in Jersey City, Hoboken, and Weehawken announced in December that they had entered into a regional bike sharing program that will allow residents and tourists alike to rent one of 650 bikes available up and down the Gold Coast.
Under the tri-municipality plan, hundreds of bikes will be available at strategic locations in all three cities. In Jersey City, a minimum of 300 bikes will be installed in 30 locations throughout the city. In Hoboken, there will be a minimum of 250 bikes and a minimum of 100 bikes in Weehawken.
And for the first time since Hurricane Sandy, pedestrians could reach Liberty State Park from downtown Jersey City in April when it was announced that a footbridge passing over the Morris Canal – which was destroyed by last year’s storm – was once again open.
Meanwhile, another Hudson County border crossing was improved this year with the unveiling of a newly constructed “100 Steps,” a 21st century version of a staircase built in the 1920s that was removed from the Palisades Cliffs in the 1990s after it had become dangerously decrepit.
In November, the new 100 Steps were opened for pedestrian use, allowing neighbors in the Jersey City Heights and western Hoboken easier access to one another.