A lawyer for Atlanta-based Home Depot USA was ready to present a preliminary major site plan for a new flagship store on a 3.35-acre lot on 12th Street and Marin Boulevard, right near the entrance to the Holland Tunnel.
The 286,000 square foot space will include a five-story, 50-foot building with 471 spaces of parking.
But Tuesday's presentation didn't happen, as the lawyer, Thomas J. O'Connor, asked for a new date because he couldn't provide a traffic impact study to the board.
The board granted O' Connor a tentative date of Sept. 13, when the next Planning Board meeting takes place. The board requested that further documentation pertaining to the site plan be provided then.
Originally the site of a Holiday Inn that opened in 1965, the property eventually became a Quality Inn that was closed in 1999 after a fire. The land was then acquired in 2002 for $6.5 million by a partnership that included jailed developer Charles Kushner (currently in federal prison for violating campaign finance and tax law), who had plans to renovate the 150-room hotel. But the property was sold earlier this year to Hartz Mountain Industries for an estimated $14 million.Opening a big Pandora's Box
This is not the first time that Home Depot has wanted to set up a home in Downtown Jersey City.
In 2004, the Planning Board was seeking to amend the Jersey Avenue Redevelopment Plan to allow for "big box" retail within an area that was once industrial, but that nearby residents wanted it to become residential.
At the time, Home Depot was interested in building on property on Jersey Avenue between 16th and 18th avenues. But opposition to the proposal shot it down.
Geoffrey Elkind, a longtime resident of the Hamilton Park section near the Holland Tunnel, was one of many who opposed the Home Depot.
"Home Depot did not meet with the community on this issue, and we felt that a store in that area would have a major impact on traffic," said Elkind.
Elkind said that the current opposition to the Home Depot is based on the same issues and the rather sudden appearance on the agenda of the recent Planning Board meeting.
"No community likes to be the reciepient of major surprise development projects either inside or close to their communities," said Elkind. "In this case, we felt that way since we did not receive a heads up from the Planning Board."
That concern was shared by city officials such as Ward E City Councilman Steven Fulop and even Mayor Jerramiah Healy, both of who found out from residents the weekend before the Planning Board meeting that Home Depot was to present their plans for a new store.
Carl Czaplicki, Mayor's Healy's chief of staff, said that Healy would like to see business in that area but not a Home Depot, because of the traffic situation and also the proximity to the Holland Tunnel.
Those concerns on a government level are also shared by municipal counterparts in Hoboken, as Hoboken City Council President Christopher Campos in Aug. 23 letter requested all traffic study information pertaining to the construction of the Home Depot.
However, there are some indications that the Home Depot could find itself with a home near the Holland Tunnel. It seems within the plan
The Home Depot store proposed for construction would be built within the Holland Tunnel Redevelopment Plan. Not one of the more well-known city redevelopment plans, it was first adopted in 1958 and amended just twice, most recently in 1996.
The area the plan covers includes Twelfth Street to Fourteenth Street and Henderson Street (Marin Boulevard) to Coles Street. Depending on what street, a different set of guidelines dictate a building's dimensions. In the case of the proposed Home Depot, it would cover Henderson and Grove between 12th and 14th Streets. According to the redevelopment plan, any building within that area can not exceed 6 stories or 100 feet in height, which the proposed store complies with.
According to Planning Department officials and Planning Board commissioner Leon Yost, any application for a structure that is not seeking a variance from the Planning Board.
And there is what looks to be approval from the Port Authority of NY and NJ, responsible for the operation of Holland Tunnel and for monitoring any construction within its immediate area.
In an Aug. 23 letter from Carlos Vallejo, senior civil engineer for the Port Authority, to Home Depot's lawyer Thomas O'Connor, Vallejo stated that the Port Authority was satisfied with the site plan presented by Home Depot, especially in addressing the issue of traffic. Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com