According the New Jersey Chapter of the American Planning Association (NJAPA), they did their job. On Nov. 5, the NJAPA is scheduled to present the New York-based planning firm its prestigious Award for Comprehensive Planning for their work in molding the mile-square city's new master plan.
The American Planning Association is a nonprofit public interest and research organization committed to urban, suburban, regional and rural planning. The New Jersey chapter's goal is to promote sound planning as a process essential to improving the quality of life of the citizens of New Jersey.
What is a master plan?
On May 30, 2002, Phillips Preiss Shapiro Associates (PPSA) was hired to write a new master plan for Hoboken. The plan will govern how different parts of town can be developed over the next 20 years. According to project manager Paul Grygiel of PPSA, a master plan takes a snapshot of what the city looks like today and sets goals for what it would like to be in the future.
In total, there are more than 230 recommendations in the plan involving economic development, transportation, affordable housing, community facilities, open space, land use and historic preservation.
The last full revision of the master plan occurred in 1979. The new Hoboken Master Plan was adopted earlier this year in April.
"This award validates the hard work put into this master plan," said Grygiel. "It's certainly rewarding for our company to be recognized by our peers, but is also an honor for Hoboken, the community, and the administration, which has unwaveringly supported this process."
Involving the community
A major reason that city hired PPSA to undertake the master plan was because they promised in make the community a partner in the planning process. "One of the main reasons we were successful with this plan was because of the extensive outreach process," said Grygiel. "This document is much more than just your typical boilerplate master plan." He said that the exhaustive community participation process included approximately a dozen public meetings and workshops. The ideas gained were applied to different geographic areas of the city at a Saturday all-day community workshop.
"This is a plan that we don't want to sit on the shelf and gather dust," said Grygiel. "The master plan that emerged from this process is detailed in scope, yet accessible to a casual reader. We hope that anyone, from a trained planner, to a school-age child to a senior citizen will be able to pick up this document and get something out of it."
Hard with political factions
Hoboken is a city that has seen tremendous growth in recent years. According to the planners, a building boom that began in the 1990s and corresponding increases in population and housing units of over 15 percent from 1990 to 2000 have transformed every corner of the city. "These changes also have resulted in a fractious political environment, with competing factions that in simple terms could be described as aggressively pro-development, moderately pro-development and anti-development," said Grygiel. He added the getting everyone "on board" in such a splintered political landscape was a challenge.
But after two years of community involvement, there is a plan in place that is "embraced by all three constituencies."
Mayor David Roberts said Friday that the master plan is one of his biggest accomplishments as mayor. "The master plan was one of the key initiatives of my campaign for mayor," said Roberts. "This was a very public process and the plan includes issues addressed by the public, for the business community to school children."
Not done yet
Even though the master plan has been adopted, there are still a several steps left to be completed. An equally important part of the process is the implementation of the concepts and recommendations of the master plan, which is done by the City Council and its planning professional, in the form of sweeping zoning amendments, a process that is now underway and should be completed in a matter of months.
The New Jersey Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL) permits municipal governing bodies, in Hoboken's case the City Council, to adopt a zoning ordinance. According to the MLUL, a zoning ordinance generally must be "substantially consistent" with the municipality's master plan.
Copies of the Hoboken Master Plan are available at the city clerk's office or online at www.hobokennj.org.