The apparent neglect, subsequent condemnation and eventual demolition of Hoboken's historic Clam Broth House and current designs for its replacement threaten one of our city's biggest economic assets: our historic central business district. The contract purchaser of the vacant site designed a six-story replacement with a Second Empire mansard roof. He did not propose a facade replicating the original four adjoining four-story buildings with their straight, Italianate cornices. His design does not comply with standards in Hoboken's zoning code. The code states that that reconstruction should match what existed. On May 24 the zoning board granted height and bulk variances. On June 22 it remanded the facade design to Hoboken's Historic Preservation Commission, saying:
"The Applicant shall present the approved Site Plan and Architectural Plan to the City Historic Preservation Commission for its approval of the building facade. The Historic Preservation [Commission] shall only have the authority to recommend modifications to the facade, and shall not have jurisdiction over the height or bulk of the building. If the Historic Preservation Commission should recommend a building facade design which conflicts with height or bulk variances granted herein, the Applicant shall be required to seek Amended Preliminary Site Plan Approval from the Board prior to or simultaneously with his application for final Major Subdivision and Final Major Site Plan Approval."
Will the Commission fulfill its responsibility to recommend a facade that adheres to the zoning code's standards for reconstruction? Will the Commission take a stand against allowing the distinct look and feel of Hoboken's historic central business district to disappear one building at a time?
The Historic Preservation Commission next meets at 7 p.m., Tuesday, July 12. Everyone who cares about preserving the integrity -- and resulting economic vitality -- of Hoboken's historic districts should urge the Commission to fulfill its responsibilities.
Allen W. Kratz