The plan, like all current development plans, is not without controversy. Some residents believe aspects of the site of the Maxwell House coffee factory, which closed in 1992, are historically significant and should be preserved. Gans and Vallone had done that in their original plan, but had since changed the plan to one that called for better waterfront views, more open space, and smaller volume buildings.
Other residents who believe too much development in Hoboken has snarled traffic and blocked parking do not want any massive complexes in the city.
Gans and Vallone said that they understand the public's concerns, but that they do not believe that residents are against all development - just "dumb development."
Their project, they believe, is smart. They say it will open up the waterfront and turn what is now a dilapidated, largely vacant, pigeon poop-encrusted facility into a charming residential area.
A walk through
Gans and Vallone took the reporter on a tour of the plant Thursday on the reporter's request - something they have also been doing with various community groups and that they will do for interested members of the public this coming Saturday (see sidebar).
The former Maxwell House plant consists of 11 buildings. At one time, the coffee company imported coffee beans from South American and inside the plant roasted and canned them for distribution. Now, many of the large rooms are vacant, with no one to admire the skyline views except pigeons and spiders. Where there are significant remnants of the plant - such as a control room full of buttons, levers and an odometer - Gans and Vallone would like to save them.
Other structures are bland and in some cases, not very old - one has a placard on it reporting that it was built in 1963.
Gans and Vallone have found a few artifacts in the plant, including architectural plans and employee records. They have also been collecting Maxwell House items from eBay and decorating their offices in the plant with them. But mainly, the vast rooms that the reporter walked through were empty and dusty.
Gans and Vallone's offices aren't the only ones in the plant - a parking company and another developer work there.
The original plan
One controversy surrounding the project has been Gans and Vallone's decision to demolish all 11 of the buildings on the site. In their original plan, the pair would have kept and totally renovated four buildings. But according to Vallone, because of community outcry to have a waterfront park, those buildings have to be scrapped. Currently, three of them block waterfront views. Instead, there will be a 24-acre park, allowing visitors to another area park - Elysian Park - to see more of the waterfront.
"You can't have it both ways," said Gans. "Either you save the buildings and lose the park or build a park and lose the waterfront buildings."
Several people throughout the community have suggested that losing the buildings would be to the cultural detriment of the city, but Gans and Vallone contend that creating waterfront open space is much more in line with the land's historical perspective. According to Vallone, before the site was used for industrial proposes, it was a park.
"This land was always intended to be a park," said Gans. "While interesting in their own way, the buildings they we would save in the original plane [the silo and pier] were only built in 1963, and that hardly makes them historic. Returning the waterfront to a park clearly predates the industrialization of the waterfront."
"It is very important to us that this project blends into Hoboken's architectural landscape," said Gans. He said they have accomplished that by having no exposed garages on facades. They are utilizing classic five-story brownstone facades to surround each building in the attempt to make a seamless transition from the turn-of-the-century buildings across the street.
In addition to the outer fa