NJ Transit and its developer LCOR told Hoboken residents on Thursday that NJ Transit’s plan to develop its 52-acre rail yard at the south end of the city will result in 6,500 permanent new jobs and an estimated $50 million per year of additional retail spending.
What they plan to build there is still in contention, as the transit agency and the city of Hoboken have, for years, have different visions of what to construct. The city favors smaller developments with more open space.
On Thursday, NJT and LCOR discussed plans including a new Hoboken bus station and improvements to the PATH terminal. Officials said the impact of Hurricane Sandy on the transportation facilities caused them to step back and “reengage.”
At a community meeting at the Hoboken Elks Club, Kurt M. Eichler, LCOR executive vice president, and Brent Jenkins, director of development for LCOR, said they are continuing to revise their plan for what they call the “Crossing” at the Hoboken terminal. They still want to include 2.9 million square feet of residential and commercial space, which they already proposed this past fall.
They would like to build 1,230 residential units, 10 percent of which would be affordable housing, as well as four office buildings and 252,000 square feet of open space.
Jenkins said he took great interest in the project because he’s a long time Hoboken resident, and empathized with any concerns about the development.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s administration fought NJ Transit’s initial proposal, which included a large commercial tower. They ultimately hired their own planner to envision a use for the land that would be more in sync with Hoboken’s zoning ordinances, and integrate more smoothly into the city’s commercial culture, transportation infrastructure, and school system.
On Friday, Zimmer said that city officials were not formally invited to the presentation, which was the transit agency’s way of reaching out to the public with their plans. She said that she’d be open to seeing and discussing any revisions.
But she noted that right now, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is working on new rules about how developments can be constructed in flood-prone areas, which may force more changes to the development plans anyway.
Trying to listen to Hoboken’s concerns
“We’ve been working on this project with NJ Transit probably for about seven or eight years now,” Eichler told the public Thursday night. “It’s gone through a number of iterations.”
He stressed that LCOR was trying to listen to Hoboken’s community and its needs and concerns. He then handed the microphone off to Jenkins.
Jenkins said he took great interest in the project not only because he’s an LCOR employee, but also because he had been a long time Hoboken resident, and empathized with any concerns about the development.
On the working relationship between a city and a private corporation, Jenkins said, “It’s an interesting and unique opportunity in that you’ve got the private sector teaming with the public sector. Money is being turned around from NJ Transit land sales. Taking those funds and turning them around and pumping money not outside of Hoboken, but back into Hoboken, in the form of the new bus station and improvements to the PATH Terminal. So it’s a very unique opportunity from that standpoint. The costs are then shouldered by the project and there’s no cost to Hoboken residents.”
Hurricane Sandy’s devastation, especially on Hoboken, was something Jenkins repeatedly touched upon in relation to the project.
“In light of the recent hurricane, we’ve reevaluated things,” he said. “We’ve been pretty quiet recently, because we took a step back and reengaged. We wanted to take a look at all of the systems, to reevaluate the new data that we obtained about flood walls and how a project like this would stand in extreme weather.”
Jenkins was optimistic on the project’s economic benefits.
“The economic impact includes a projected $50 million per year of additional retail spending that is projected to come along with the development,” he said. “A projection of about 6,500 new permanent jobs would be created.”
Zimmer said that the city will continue with its redevelopment goals for the southern area of town.
Will Stape can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.