It is the Yardley Building located on Palisade Avenue in Union City and visible from Hoboken. The sprawling building has been vacant for years, save for a couple of small businesses that occupy a small section of the six acre plot. The building has fallen into disrepair as a result and has become an eyesore in the neighborhood it resides in and a financial black hole for the various administrations that have occupied City Hall over the years. What to do with the dilapidated building has been a question that no one has been able to adequately answer. However, last week the Union City Planning Board met and heard a presentation that outlined preliminary plans to develop the site into a residential and commercial destination, the likes of which Union City has never seen.The Union City planning board was joined by Union City Commissioner Christopher Irizarry, who stood in for Mayor Brian Stack. Stack was at a Hudson County Freeholder's meeting and could not attend the Planning Board meeting. Stack's administration the latest in a long line of Union City power's that be that have attempted to tackle what has become known simply as "The Yardley Project". However, unlike previous administrations, Stack's considerable political clout as a county Freeholder and gives his administration's plans for the site a relative boost.
When contacted late last week, Stack commented, "I've always thought that if there is a 'Gateway to Union City,' it's through Yardley."
The presentation, given by consultant David Spatz, who was hired by the city, is a very preliminary outline for the site and did not pinpoint any specific design ideas as of yet.
According to a packet handed out at the meeting entitled "The Yardley Building Redevelopment Plan", the purpose of the plan is "to provide a comprehensive development plan that will allow and encourage redevelopment of this Area in a manner that is consistent with the predominantly residential character of the surrounding neighborhood; while at the same time allowing for flexibility in the design and layout of buildings and structures in the Area to accommodate the unique characteristics of the Area."
According to the plan outlined at last week's meeting the overall objective of the city is to firstly, adhere to a relocation plan, as required by state statutes. According to the handout, most of the property within the designated redevelopment area is vacant and those businesses that do occupy the building "will leave as their leases expire or will come to some other lease termination agreement with the redeveloper as the project proceeds." The text of the handout goes on to say that should relocation of the few businesses become necessary, relocation plans will "receive the careful attention of local officials and the Union City Redevelopment Agency."
As it stands, since the Yardley building was and is a commercial site, no relocation of residents will be needed. The subject of redevelopment in Union City has been a sticky wicket that pits those that have resided in the city for their whole lives against those that have just recently arrived and see much room for improvement. The current Stack administration, with it's vast Latino support, is under the proverbial gun to on one hand maintain the unique multi-cultural character that Union City prides itself on and to also see that the city moves along with its neighbors Hoboken, West New York and Jersey City in terms of development.
There also may be an issue with where the Yardley building is located. There is small but vocal opposition in Union City to any further development on the Palisades. Certain residents of the city have made their voices heard at past Commissioner and Planning Board meetings by declaring that the Palisades are a valuable and lone natural resource that should not be developed. There have also been whispers around the city that the homeless settlement on the Palisades is a target because the land that they occupy is quite valuable to developers.
Whatever the case may be, according to consultant David Spatz, who made the presentation to the Planning Board on behalf of Union City, the specific location of the building exempts it from what are known as "Steep Slope Regulations". According to Spatz, the building technically doesn't sit on the Palisades. Said Spatz, "Actually, the land that the building sits on was man-made when the 14th Street Viaduct was built, so any development will not damage or change the Palisades in any way."
According to Spatz' proposal, after the Yardley Building itself is renovated and developed, other phases will begin, with the building of residential towers that will conceivably tower 29 stories over the Palisades. This is perhaps the most ambitious part of the plan and the one most likely to cause controversy and consternation amongst the residents of Union City, particularly those who live on the Palisade Avenue corridor. Assuredly, when the plan comes to public comment, voices will be loud and clear, on both sides of the fence. Spatz spoke of "view corridors" between the proposed towers to facilitate views of New York City for local residents.
According to City Clerk Mike Licmelli, after the initial proposal is accepted and given a recommendation by the Planning Board, the recommendation then moves to the Board of Commissioners. After careful review and public comment, the Commissioners will then create a resolution and if accepted, will move the resolution on to the Union City Redevelopment Agency who are then authorized to choose a developer for the project.
The developer will then come before the planning board to propose a final site plan. It should be noted that all through this process, the public will have ample time to comment on the proposed plans.
After the meeting, consultant David Spatz commented on the plans. Said Spatz, "It's (the Yardley Project) a positive. You have a property that has been abandoned and its use is outmoded at this point. This plan will definitely be better for the neighborhood. This is our 'waterfront'."
Union City Commissioner Chris Irizarry said, "This site has been the Achilles Heel of the financial stability of this city for years. This project will take Union City to the next level. It will hopefully get us away from dependence on the state." Continued Irizarry, "Basically, we want to see the areas that need redevelopment to be developed. We don't want to displace anyone. There is no reason why Union City can't retain its character and diversity but still attract development. It's a fine line. The Yardley Project is a diamond in the rough."