For years, the artists who painted and sculpted in lofts at 111 First St. tried to fend off a developer who wanted to build luxury condos on the site of the old factory building. But in 2005 and 20007, the building and its sister structure at 110 First St. were demolished.
These days, the downtown plots of land contains only pyramids of bricks, construction debris, and growing weeds – not the tall condo towers that were envisioned by developer Lloyd Goldman.
Located not far from Trump Plaza: Jersey City and the Newport Centre Mall, the lots are both owned by Goldman and his company, BLDG Management. Goldman is a New York billionaire property magnate known as a part-investor in the World Trade Center as well as part-owner of the landmark Sears Tower in Chicago.
“It is really about waiting for the market to rebound.” – Dan Horgan
But that plan was never presented to the city’s Planning Board, nor has any other plan been presented for the land in the last three years.
Calls to BLDG Management’s Manhattan office were not returned by press time last week.
Attorney Dan Horgan, who has served as legal counsel to BLDG Management for several years, said last week that current economic conditions have caused developments like 110 and 111 First St. to be put on hold.
“It’s no secret that the real estate market has gone through a tough time,” Horgan said. “It is really about waiting for the market to rebound.”
Downtown City Councilman Steven Fulop was blunt about the impact of the two properties lying undeveloped.
“That is the big donut hole in the development of downtown Jersey City,” Fulop said.
The land across the street at 110 First St. also has not seen any movement. The Jersey City Planning Board in February 2008 approved plans for a 35-story, 452-unit rental tower there. The City Council granted a 10-year tax abatement for that project in September 2008. Then the pilings came…and nothing more.
Both properties are within the Powerhouse Arts District, an area set aside in October, 2004 to provide some housing for artists and to attract tourism.
However, at the time, Goldman asked for his two plots of land to be exempt from some of the regulations governing the district. Despite protests by arts activists, both properties were eventually placed in a special zone that would allow Goldman to make them taller than the zoning would allow.
The special zoning came after Goldman sued the city for $100 million, saying that the designated district prevented him from building the new structures he has in mind. The city had already levied millions of dollars in fines against Goldman.
As part of a settlement between Goldman and the city, the city dropped the fines and Goldman dropped his suit. The settlement also called for BLDG to provide 70 units of affordable housing at 110 First St. and another site. At present, 45 units are being built at 1201-1217 Summit Ave. by Franklin Development Company, a project funded in part by BLDG.
To provide some continuity with history, the settlement also called for the bricks from the former P. Lorillard Tobacco Factory at 111 First St. to be used for construction of the new tower on that property – the same bricks now piled there.
Not a priority
City spokesperson Jennifer Morrill said last week city officials have spoken to the owner of 110 and 111 St. in the past year about development of both properties, but she did not go into further detail.
Morrill read a statement from Mayor Jerramiah Healy saying, “Like other properties, we hope it will be developed when the economy and real estate market improves.”
Morrill said that the city has not levied any fines on the developer for the debris on the property. However, the city has levied three fines on both properties totaling $318, from January 2009 through May 2010, for failure to clear snow from the sidewalks.
Morrill said the city was still tabulating how tax money has been lost as a result of the two properties’ lack of development. A check of city tax records for 110 and 111 First St. shows that since February 2006, $406,782 in taxes were paid for 110 First and $497,854 in taxes for 111 First. The amount would theoretically be higher if the projects were built, even if 110 First has its own tax abatement deal with the city.
Fulop said more than money has been lost by the city because of the way the city amended the zoning in the Powerhouse Arts District.
“A byproduct is nothing is going to be built there for quite some time,” Fulop said.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com.