The Koven Stove Works building on Paterson Plank Road and Mountain Road was the subject of a resolution passed by Jersey City's City Council at their Wednesday meeting, and The Van Leer Chocolate Factory site on 110-114 Hoboken Ave. near Holland Tunnel is the subject of a community meeting this coming Thursday where developers will present redevelopment plans. Residents are likely to see the following:
* The Koven Stone Works will be turned into 128 market-rate housing units with 88 parking spaces, and the developers will reconstruct the "100 steps" leading down the Palisades from Jersey City to Hoboken. The City Council voted last week on a developer's agreement to ensure that construction does not damage the Palisade cliffs.
* The Van Leer Chocolate Factory site may see more than 900 condominium units with parking, 8,000 square feet of retail space, a one-acre park, a walkway leading down Hoboken Avenue from the Heights onto the property, as well as a shorter walkway leading to the Second Street Light Rail Station in Hoboken. The plan will go to the Planning Board in August.
Keeping factory features
Much of the area near the border is an industrial no-man's land with abandoned factories that were once hallmarks of Jersey City's industrial past.
But it has been common to employ the principle of "adaptive reuse" to turn urban factory buildings into new residences, while keeping their appealing industrial features.
The Dixon Mills Apartments on Wayne Street in Jersey City were once home to the Dixon Pencil Company. The Whitlock Cordage building on Manning Street, previously the headquarters of ropemakers Whitlock Cordage, will soon be the site of 330 mixed-income townhouses.
Something's cooking at Koven Stove
The Koven Stove Works is a familiar sight for those driving up Paterson Plank Road on the hills between the two tunnels.
The structure is a long, brick warehouse with a sign placed on the exterior that reads "Bookbinders" and advertisements for adopting puppies and getting a mortgage.
But in the next two years, there will be activity in and around the site, where stoves were once built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Later, the building served as a storage space for book distributors, earning the name "the Bookbinder Building."
Besides building housing and parking, the developers will expand the one-lane Mountain Road, which runs from behind the building up to Odgen Avenue in the Jersey City Heights. Also, the developer will be responsible for building what is called the "new 100 Steps." The old incarnation of the steps existed on Franklin Street in Jersey City above the Palisade Cliffs and allowed people to walk down into Hoboken. That staircase was removed in the 1920s, according a listing on the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy web site (www.jerseycityhistory.net).
All the development work on the Koven Stove building and in the surrounding area will be done by Brass Works Urban Renewal, LLC, the principal partner being Hoboken developer Sanford Weiss, who developed a number of Hoboken buildings, including 101 Marshall Drive and 98 Park Ave. The work at Koven Stove is also subject to a developer's agreement that was approved at Wednesday's City Council meeting. The agreement is the result of several years of negotiations between Jersey City Heights residents and the developer, and it calls for the developer to comply with a number of stipulations.
Heights resident Clif Steinbring, president of the Riverview Neighborhood Association, said that the agreement protects the Palisade cliffs during construction.
"The building is located in what is called the Palisades Preservation Overlay District, which protects the Palisade cliffs that runs behind the building," said Steinbring. "There are always concerns that the cliffs will come down, that it will happen if there isn't any protection." The district, approved by the City Council in April 2001, allows for development within an area along the Palisades from Montgomery Street north to the Union City boundary line. But there are special regulations to ensure that the construction does not disturb the structure of the Palisade Cliffs and that the building is not high enough to block Heights residents' views.
The developer's agreement approved on Wednesday will ensure that stabilization procedures are put in place before construction begins. They include fencing at the top of the cliffs, and the installation of monitoring equipment in the homes there.
Also, affected property owners will receive a notice from the developer alerting them to home inspections in case the developer needs to pay for additional insurance coverage. During construction, there will be drilling, not blasting, and sound will be muffled as the work will be done.
The building height will climb from three stories to five.
Steinbring, who works in the development business, said that the agreement makes the project unique.
"Most projects do not have a developer's agreement. But the [RNA's] attitude is that we don't want to go into a project looking for a lawsuit, but rather [have] an agreement," said Steinbring. Pre-construction stabilization is to commence in September or October, and construction for the project will start next year.
Sweet happenings at Van Leer
What was the Van Leer chocolate factory building on Hoboken Avenue is now but a mere shell of its former self. The company, which closed its operations in 2001 after being sold to a Swiss company, decided to tear down the building to ward off vagrants who would have used the building as shelter.
Indeed, a recent visit to the site revealed that a homeless person had left a blanket and a shopping cart there.
But if Hoboken developers George Vallone and Danny Gans have their way, the site will see new occupants of a different sort. Vallone and Gans of the development firm Hoboken Brownstone will, in the next five to six years, build market-rate housing on two sections of the Van Leer factory property, a total of seven acres.
Vallone said he has known the Van Leer family since 1996 but had to wait for two other developers to back out of developing the area before he and Gans entered into a contract with the Van Leers to develop in October 2004.
Vallone is excited about the transformation of the site, provided he gets Planning Board approval. "There is not a lot of land left in Jersey City to build upon, and when you can find seven acres of land available, then you go for it," said Vallone. "In real estate, it's all about location."
Construction would start in early 2007. A cleanup would take place six to nine months before that since the site contains a high concentration of white cake arsenic dumped there before the Van Leer factory existed, said Vallone.
Nearly 950 units would be spread over seven acres and broken into two sections. Vallone also said that 8,000 square feet of retail space will be built for a restaurant. The condominiums would sell for $300,000 to $900,000.