The Jersey City City Council, at its meeting Wednesday, tabled the Journal Square Redevelopment Plan. The plan outlines how to revitalize the Journal Square area of town, adding 10,000 to 15,000 new residential units within a 244-acre area. The proposal also envisions development of thousands of square feet of commercial and retail space and 9 acres of park space.
The ordinance for the plan was up for final adoption at the meeting, but instead, members of the public spoke and then the council postponed voting.
At the centerpiece of the plan are the two $400 million towers, 68 and 50 stories, to be privately built on land adjacent to the Journal Square Transportation Center by longtime Journal Square businessman Lowell Harwood and Washington D.C.-based pension firm MEPT. That project is expected to break ground on April 7.
But some council members at their caucus on Monday were concerned about a plan to allow developers to build taller buildings and contribute revenues to a special fund for improvements to the Journal Square area. The fund is known as a DIB (district improvement bonus), in which developers pay a certain amount per square foot if they build a structure that exceeds the floor/area ratio (FAR) allowed for the building.
What bothered some at the caucus was that the revenues would just be devoted to Journal Square, rather than going into the city coffers for improvements across the city. That led City Councilman Bill Gaughan, who represents the Heights area, to suggest tabling the plan in favor of more discussion.
However, another concern of the council was that residents of the area are still skeptical about the plan.
About 20 residents at Wednesday’s meeting brought up issues such as responsible development, noting the plan allows skyscraper-type buildings and could prompt the use of eminent domain that would force people from their homes.
To find out more about the plan, visit www.jcra.org, where the Journal Square Redevelopment Plan is posted along with a slideshow depicting the changes that would come about.
20 residents speak out
For two hours at Wednesday’s council meeting, discussion, inquiry and also even commentary took place regarding the plan.
Pia DeSilva, a Journal Square area resident, said the council should “think once, twice, three times” before approving the plan because of the construction that could disrupt traffic and people traveling to and from Journal Square.
“My morning and evening walks permit [me] to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of Journal Square.” – Irwin Rosen
Jeff Kaplowitz, a longtime real estate broker in Jersey City, urged approval, and spoke of Journal Square not being developed during better economic times. He said the city should not miss that opportunity again.
“That is the perfect time to plan because when the market heats up, we are prepared to accept and benefit from those good times,” Kaplowitz said.
Irwin Rosen, an attorney who has operated his law practice in Journal Square for almost 30 years and resided in the area, read off a list of what he would like to see in Journal Square as the result of any development, such as the implementation of new street lighting and a new high school.
“My morning and evening walks permit [me] to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of Journal Square,” Rosen said.
City Councilman Steve Lipski, who represents the Journal Square area, said he was “ready to vote” on the plan at the meeting but was willing to wait.
After the Journal Square discussion, Robert Antonicello, executive director of the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency, told the Jersey City Reporter that there could be changes in the proposal, such as shrinking the area covered by the plan, based on the input by residents.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com.