But it wasn't necessarily going to be an easy sell to the neighbors between Eighth and Ninth streets near Hamilton Park.
The residents already had rejected two construction plans and held numerous public meetings in order to make sure there would be development that respected the historic character of the neighborhood.
The residents recently came out to express their concerns on the proposed St. Francis Redevelopment Project at a meeting of the city's Historic Preservation Commission on Feb. 28. The issues of concern ranged from the noise from construction to the increase in traffic from new residents.
At the meeting, the commission approved the St. Francis Redevelopment Project - which would make the Silvermans' proposal possible - by a vote of 7-0, with conditions such as making the entrances for the retail spaces to be on street corners, and reducing the signage in front of the retail.
The plan will go in front of the Planning Board for their approval this Tuesday. Residents may go to the meeting to voice their opinions.
The Silvermans purchased the St. Francis property last year.St. Francis project
The Silverman project would be done in three phases, with construction to begin in spring/summer 2006 and completion within three years.
The first phase proposed by the Silvermans would restore a 1920s-era building on the corner of Erie and Tenth Streets, construct a six-story infill building on McWilliams Place and Ninth Street, and demolish the hospital's main building near Eighth Street.
Also during this phase, Pavonia Avenue would be opened as a cobblestone road. It has been closed for years because of one of the hospital buildings was constructed on top of it.
When that first phase is completed, the result would be two 13-floor, 140 foot towers with a total of 225 dwelling units, ground level retail limited to 2,500 square feet and underground parking. There would be a wine shop, a preschool, doctors offices, and health club.
The second phase will be construction of a nine-story 105-foot tall building on the site of an existing garage on Erie Street that will include 65 dwelling units, ground floor retail, and parking.
The third phase will see the construction of a new five-story building on a vacant parking lot that will have 35 units of housing but with no parking.
The Silvermans also plan to make improvements to Hamilton Park including new lighting and changing the parking setup on McWillams Place from head-on parking to parallel parking, as well as rebuilding the sidewalks. Getting the project off the ground
The Silvermans spoke recently about their project and the progress they have made.
Eric and Paul Silverman have been developers for over 20 years in Jersey City, building a number of luxury condominium and rental apartment complexes including the restoration of the old Majestic Theatre on Grove Street and the Park Hamilton on Tenth Street, and currently the Schroeder Lofts on Erie and Tenth Street.
Their involvement with St. Francis Hospital goes back to around 2000 when they were approached by officials from the Bon Secours Health System, then owners of the hospital.
"At the beginning, [hospital officials] were thinking about closing one building, a nursing school. But ultimately they closed the whole hospital and sold it," said Eric Silverman last week.
Silverman said in 2004, the owners of St. Francis then entered into contract with another developer, Lincoln Equities, who had plans to demolish the entire hospital and build two 20-story towers with townhouses. But after six or seven months, those developers were no longer involved, and in January 2005, the Silvermans made a deal to purchase St. Francis.
By August, the hospital was officially closed.
Soon after the purchase, the Silvermans started creating architectural plans and meeting with the Hamilton Park Neighborhood Association.
"Meeting with the neighborhood people the three most important things to them was parking, open space and...not exceed the square footage of the existing building with the new building," said Silverman. Silverman said the square footage of the St. Francis complex is 350,000 square feet.
Residents who saw the initial plans like the idea of the opening of Pavonia Avenue, but were not on board with the modern design, saying it didn't fit in with the Hamilton Park historic district.
Silverman then retained the services of a new architect and made revisions to the plans and after subsequent meetings with the community. But critics remain
Steve Gold created the 25 McWilliams Watchdog Group in August of last year. The group's intention is to increase the public's knowledge of the St. Francis redevelopment project and to make sure community feedback is taken into consideration.
Gold, a Tenth Street resident, said his group initially was the result of an "overreaction" to not having a phone call returned by the Silvermans. But his efforts led to a membership of over 200 people who had questions about the project.
"After talking to about 50 people, you get the same idea. One of the first things was to let them know what the project was about," said Gold.
In particular, he created a website (www.25mc.org) and an accompanying weblog where visitors can look at the site plans of the St. Francis project and comment on the plans.
What Gold has gleaned from feedback onto the group's website were several issues of concern: building density (he feels 225 units is too many for the space); building height (The heights of the buildings slated for McWilliams Place would be 140 feet, which is acceptable for the Hamilton Park area, but he also wants to make sure other buildings are compatible); parking issues, and smaller retail establishments rather than chain stores.
And then there's Dan Levin, a resident of Third Street. Levin in a recent letter to the Jersey City Reporter pointed out several things that concern him about the St. Francis Redevelopment Plan.
Levin complained that the "redevelopment plan was written by a potential developer and not City Planning."
The meeting will be held Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall on Grove Street. Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org