Although the project has not yet had its official groundbreaking, Journal Square Center Towers, or “J2” as some call it, has begun with the first series of demolitions near Pavonia and Summit avenues.
“They started taking down the buildings this week,” said Councilman Richard Boggiano, with a note of regret at the loss of a venerable old structure.
The massive project is the next step in revitalizing the area around the Journal Square PATH and bus station, ushering the district into a new era and allowing it to compete with the Jersey City waterfront for prestige as an urban hub.
The City Council voted in November to approve a 30-year tax abatement for the project. The project fulfills a campaign promise Mayor Steven Fulop made last spring when he said his administration would push ahead with long-delayed development in that part of the city.
In 2012, the city Planning Board approved three residential towers to be constructed in an area bordered by Magnolia Way, Summit and Pavonia avenues that was until recently occupied by a number of apartment buildings, a parking lot once used for New Jersey Transit personnel, and a former office building owned by Verizon.
To be constructed by the KRE Group, the project when completed will have 1,840 residential units in three towers ranging from 54 to 70 stories in height, far exceeding any building that currently exists in that part of the city. The KRE group previously built Grove Pointe, a large-scale residential development near the Grove Street PATH Station.
Demolition started just prior to the end of the year, and became more intense after Jan. 1 with the removal of four apartment buildings on Pavonia Avenue.
To be built in phases
The development is expected to be constructed in three parts and will eventually include about 36,000 square feet of retail space and 920 parking spaces. Phase I is expected to be completed and its luxury rental units available within three years, officials said.
This phase will include a 54-story, 540 residential rental unit tower that will include a pedestrian/community space out front similar to Grove Plaza at the Grove Street PATH Station.
“It’s a start.” – Richard Boggiano
The final phase is expected to be completed by 2029.
The $666 million total project has been granted a 30-year tax abatement as well as $10 million in bonds that were authorized by the City Council last year. The developers have negotiated annual payments to the city in lieu of taxes, but none will be paid to Hudson County or the local school district.
KRE has also agreed to pay $515,000 to the city annually over 25 years to amortize the $10 million bonds. Also as part of the agreement, KRE has agreed to donate $2.5 million to help restore the Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre, located nearby.
City officials said KRE estimates a total of $11.1 million in net annual income once the three towers are complete and fully rented.
Boggiano, who represents the area on the council, said he was somewhat saddened by the loss of one of the apartment buildings, saying that it had been well-maintained. But like many, he saw this as the eventual start of long-needed restoration of a key part of the city.
Although the abatement on the project sparked a lot of debate, moving ahead with the project serves as a primary example of a new philosophy for expanding development projects beyond the downtown and waterfront areas of the city.
Vacant lots of previously demolished buildings on Journal Square became symbols of the city’s inability to restore the one-time hub of business activity, and one of the principle campaign issues during Fulop’s election last May.
Fulop promised during a debate in the Loew’s Theatre prior to the election that he had a plan to get the Journal Square redevelopment back on track.
The KRE project plus others proposed for Journal Square almost guarantee a steady flow of construction and later permanent jobs in the area, as well as the replacement of aging buildings with new, modern and appealing residential and business spaces.
The official groundbreaking is expected to take place once the demolition and cleanup of debris is done, city officials said, most likely within a few weeks.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.