But some area artists are not very happy about the changes.
Those changes mean that Toll Bros. can build less housing for artists, as well as destroy two historic warehouses and a cobblestone street, although Toll Bros. plans to keep the cobblestones for a future plaza.
But Toll Brothers also plans to build a 550-seat theater and gallery in addition to the towers.
The three towers are expected to be 30, 35, and 40 stories high, totaling 950 units. Toll Brothers hopes to also demolish most of the former Manischewitz plant on Marin Boulevard and Bay Street, except for the façade.Other implications
The entire project is currently named Provost Square. It will have a 24,000-square-foot plaza on what is currently Provost Street that would also take away one of the city's last remaining cobblestone streets.
Toll Bros. is now allowed to market 10 percent of housing to working families, instead of artists, for the first 180 days after the units are built.
There is one more hurdle to clear before these changes are approved. The plan needs a go-ahead from the City Council. But if the vote by the Planning Board is any indication, the council is likely to approve the amendments. Not part of it
What also helped was the testimony of Robert Cotter, director of the city's Planning Department, who spoke in positive terms of the Toll Bros. Plan. He also said he believes the area to be developed is not actually in the Powerhouse Arts District (PAD), which has specific zoning.
The Powerhouse Arts District (PAD) in Downtown Jersey City is an 11-block area that stretches east to west from Marin Boulevard to Washington Boulevard, and from north to south from Second Street to Bay Street.
In 2004, the district was officially designated for redevelopment by the city, and is supposed to include 10 percent affordable housing, particularly for artists.
The district's crown jewel is its namesake - the old Hudson and Manhattan Powerhouse building on Washington Blvd., which once provided electricity for the massive Hudson Manhattan railroad (the precursor to the PATH system). City officials have considered turning it into a shopping and entertainment complex, as was done with the old Baltimore Power Station on Baltimore's inner harbor.
The district is full of majestic warehouse structures that once served as homes to suppliers and manufacturers such as the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P). Residents very concerned
Cotter said at the meeting that the Toll Bros. project will bring more people into the area and help create a vital theater and arts district.
The meeting was the continuation of a Nov. 27 Planning Board meeting, where over five hours of public testimony was given by advocates and critics of the Toll Bros. project.
Wednesday's meeting was just to hear Planning Department staff give their assessment of the amendments being considered, before a vote.
Residents of the PAD, who are part of the Powerhouse Arts District Neighborhood Association (PADNA) have gone before city officials since they formed in 2006. They have tried to make sure the district is developed according its redevelopment plan. This means following guidelines for height and mass, conversion of the warehouses, 10 percent affordable housing (particularly for artists), and 1 percent construction costs dedicated to the arts.
PADNA have been concerned about high-rise development encroaching upon their district.
They were first perturbed by the 550-feet tower planned for 111 First St., a building that used to contain working artists. That building was located in the PAD until 2006, when it was placed in its own special zone in order to settle legal matters between the developer, New Gold Equities, and the city.
Now, PADNA finds itself on the losing end of another development battle.
Jill Edelman, current president of PADNA, commented last week on the Planning Board decision.
"Everyone needs to keep this in mind," she said. "What Toll Bros. was seeking was a doubling of density. And a doubling of density is a doubling of profits. For the commissioners to grant them this approval is to grant them a large financial gift." Several artists' districts foundered
At the Planning Board meeting, Cotter described the history of the Powerhouse Arts District from its origins in the 1990s. At that time, longtime arts advocate and resident Charles Kessler and local historian Rick James came to him with the idea of an arts district.
Both Kessler and James were in the audience on Wednesday, and both could only look on in disappointment.
Cotter then described how over the next 10 years, the city's master plan was changed to make way for the WALDO (Work and Live District Overlay), a precursor for the Powerhouse Arts District, which would attract more artists to an area already being settled by those engaged with the arts by requiring all those settling in the WALDO to be artists.
That district was short-lived due to resistance by property owners.
This controversy led to the Powerhouse Arts District, which would allow for a mix of artists and non-artists.
But now, Toll does not have to deal entirely with that zoning either. Cotter said that a part of Toll Bros.' project is actually outside of the district, specifically the Manischewitz site.
Cotter said the block of the Manischewitz site is not included in the PAD, but instead is in a larger "land-use district" that only includes Newport and Exchange Place "This block is actually planned to be similar in densities and intensities as the Newport area and Colgate Exchange area where the 800-foot Goldman Sachs building sits," Cotter said. "This was a bit of a surprise to me when I saw it."
Cotter later praised the Toll Bros. plan, and soon, members of the Planning Board agreed. Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.