After making a number of alterations since October, the Hoboken City Council finally came to a consensus on the rail yard redevelopment plan at last night’s meeting.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
For those following closely, the 9-0 vote wasn’t a surprise: the council approved the first reading of the measure by the same tally at their February 6th meeting.
The project, which has existed in some form since 2008, includes three sites on 80 acres of land owned by New Jersey Transit and will be developed by LCOR.
1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco applauded everyone involved in the project for getting on the same page and working together for the best possible outcome.
“This is what happens when we don’t rush things. This is what happens when we don’t let [special] interests influence our decision making and I really think the plan in front of us today is a substantially better plan than 2014 – it’s smaller – it’s substantially better than in October – it’s inclusive of the 20 percent affordable [housing] component, it prioritizes the Warrington Plaza and the terminal building in the first phase,” he explained.
At a public meeting in October, several members of the public chided the plan, citing environmental, traffic, and parking concerns.
While an amended version of that plan was approved the day after the November council races, it never received a second reading as the council and members of the administration opted to go back to the drawing board.
Site one, an office building located between Hudson Street and Hudson place, will be between 200 and 300 feet tall, depending on the financial feasibility determined by a redevelopment agreement.
If the building is 200 feet tall, it will have a maximum square footage of 412,000, while that number would grow to 635,000 if the building is 300 feet tall.
Additionally, site two would be a 330-feet building on Observer Highway between Hudson Street and Garden Street had previously been designated as a residential tower, but now itâ€™s usage will be determined by financial feasibility – though at least one council member believes both sites should remain commercial.
“The sub-committee, and a lot of people, spent a lot of time shaping kind of where it is now – which is a commercially anchored property that we hope and expect Site 1 and Site 2 to be commercial,” said 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher.
“I’m a little upset that you led with ‘oh if a developer comes in with a residential application we’ll do the analysis. I would like to go on the record to say we will absolutely discourage the developer to come in with a residential application at any time: we’re working really, really hard to do a commercial application.”
Other notable amendments to the approved plan, which will next require a redevelopment agreement, include preserving design components related to the $230 million Rebuild by Design flood prevention project, and reduced open space from 4.5 acres to 1.45 acres.
In a statement, Council President Jen Giattino said she was proud of the unanimous vote for “the transforming plan,” expressing enthusiasm for the project as the construction phase nears.
â€œThe combined efforts of our Council subcommittee and the years of input from the Hoboken Task Force helped shape this into the commercially anchored plan that best meets the long term goals for both Hoboken and NJ Transit. Iâ€™m very much looking forward to continuing our partnership with LCOR and NJ Transit and all other stakeholders to make this plan a reality.â€
Mayor Ravi Bhalla, who sat in the crowd as the second reading was discussed, said he was glad the plan was able to incorporate the community feedback gathered in recent months and calling it “a win for Hoboken” overall.
“This plan is a win for Hoboken as it provides the framework to both revitalize our downtown region with an emphasis on commercial development, while substantially reducing the size of the overall project and residential density,” he said.
“I thank Council President Jen Giattino, the City Council, and the resident task force for their collaborative approach in developing the best possible plan for our City.â€