Hoboken Planning Board approves 27-story rail yard building with 20% affordable housing


The Hoboken Planning Board approved a 27-story building with 20 percent affordable housing units, the cornerstone of the city’s rail yard redevelopment plan, at last night’s meeting.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

The developer Observer Highway Urban Renewal LLC is owned by LCOR and New Jersey Transit currently owns the 339,219-foot property. The site includes rail lines, a parking lot, and related structures.

The developer wants to build a mixed-use residential and retail 280-foot tall, 386-unit residential skyscraper, would have a first-floor lobby and resident lounge with a package room, concierge, and pet spa.

The second floor and rooftop amenity space include a fitness center, entertainment kitchen, co-working spaces, and a dining area.

“This application … does not have any variances. It’s consistent with the Hoboken Yard Redevelopment Plan,” Planner Deborah Lawler noted.

“The development would yield about 41 public school children. It’s always about the 10 percent range.”

She further explained it had been in the works for years and was stalled by the Great Recession, as well as that about 700 people would live there.

Project Attorney Meryl Gonchar noted the application was reviewed and carried during the planning board’s September 7th hearing, about a month after they granted a completeness review.

She explained there will be different ranges of affordable and low-income housing, including in the 20 percent affordable housing.

Project Manager Dan Sobieski said the plan was changed slightly to create more amenity spaces and trees.

Councilman-at-Large Jim Doyle, the council designee, recalled that there would be mass transit operating under the site.

“Correct,” Gonchar said.

Sobieski added that they want to have a rain garden on the roof to help address ongoing flooding issues in the city.

“What’s going to actually be holding the water?” Board Chair Frank Magaletta

“It will reach a certain level and then start flowing,” Sobieski replied.

“Does it just drain by evaporation?” Doyle asked.

“Correct,” Sobieski said.

Doyle asked if there is a plug to allow the roof to drain and Sobieski deferred to her architect.

“Is the reluctance to provide detention due to a physical constraint?” Board Engineer Chris Nash questioned.

Architect Paul Albano said some areas will drain quicker using valves, adding they are compartmentalizing the roof’s design to hold in the water.

Traffic Engineer Michelle Briehof explained they began a traffic study in 2016 and did it again in 2019 and 2021.

“We did start this project many years ago. That 2017 data has been the highest,” she noted.

There would be a circular road around the building with different ways in and out. Briehof said there are nearby parking garages where individuals could go and there will be no parking on site.

“It was the city’s concurrence that the parking was available. We’re not expecting a significant amount of traffic entering and exiting,” Briehof added.

Doyle noted they have many developing projects nearby competing for limited space.

“40 trips might sound like a lot of trips,” Briehof admitted.

However, she added most of the trips would be brief and that the standard for higher traffic is closer to 100 trips.

“I don’t understand. In 386 units, there will be plenty of vehicles. There’s a lot of need for cars to bring things. I don’t understand how the calculations match my intuitive sense of reality,” Commissioner Anne Lockwood argued.

Briehof said when they looked into it, 60 percent of those would probably take mass transit exclusively.

Magaletta said they could use ride shares too. However, he was also very skeptical of their projected traffic numbers.

Briehof explained they reviewed traffic for two years for their report.

“I think if you get three engineers looking at something, you get three different answers,” Nash argued.

He was skeptical it would decrease traffic.

Briehof noted their Hoboken Rail Yard redevelopment project includes improvements like the Warrington Plaza opening to improve traffic, which should help.

Nash noted tweaking nearby traffic signals could help as well.

“It’s a site that has no parking. So, applying the trip generation, it’s very difficult,” he added.

Magaletta was curious about traffic light adjustments.

Briehof said they would design the traffic light to increase flow.

Doyle said their transportation plan complies with the redevelopment plan.

“You mention that the assumption is that 60 percent of the people will use mass transit. That’s you’re going to ask them to choose to be a car person or a mass transit person?” Lockwood asked.

Briehof explained the 60 percent number was developed by working with the city planner, the city transportation analyst, and Brightview Engineering.

Gonchar ultimately called it a transformational project and noted their intense attention to detail in her closing statement.

“This will be an enhancement to this part of the city,” she added.

Additionally, Commissioner Ryane Peene praised the project for its environmental considerations and affordable housing.

“It’s certainly the most affordable housing we’ve gotten at 20 percent. We’ve been sweating the details. I think it’s notable nobody is here objecting,” Doyle stated.

“It’s a lot of affordable housing for a community that really needs it. We’re famous for ultra-gentrification. It’s a terrible thing to be famous for,” Magaletta added.

The Hoboken Planning Board approved the measure unanimously (7-0).

Approval conditions included six extra bike spaces, capturing as much stormwater as possible, and compliance with the previously agreed upon affordable housing.

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  1. Billy Joel wrote “Sometimes all you need is a fantasy.”

    This has been a windfall fantasy project for New Jersey Transit and their designated developer LOCOR for many years. Hoboken residents have been sold that fantasy and have hoped it could be reasonably realized without inflicting too much pain and expense on them.

    Will this residential building be paying full Hoboken school taxes to pay for the estimated 41 new students being added to the system or will othe Hoboken taxpayers be asked to make up the shortfall ?

    A 386 unit residential building with zero on site parking is more insanity than fantasy. Is a traffic study last done during the height of the Covid pandemic really relevant. It is common sense that many if not most of those affluent residents in the building will have cars and to say they won’t is delusional.

    Approval was never in question. When all the City Boards were chosen by a Mayor who wants construction to begin on the NJT/LOCOR site for his own political agenda.

  2. 27 stories is a disgrace, entirely out of whack with the character of the city. Please don’t make Hoboken look like that horrible mess in Newport and downtown JC. Half that height would have been fine.

    • City Councilman at Large Doyle forgets the job he was elected to do was represent the best interests of the residents of Hoboken and not just the politically connected developers.

  3. This is a good project. 20% affordable could be higher, since it was a state owned lot previously. It’s the most logical place in the city for a high rise—waterfront and periphery of the city have taller buildings by design. Personally, I don’t notice the difference between 20 and 27 stories visually.

    As for parking, where would they build parking? On the train tracks???? People who drive cars to work wouldn’t move to that building. Why would they?? Great spot for a Manhattan commuter tho. I get that parking is an issue in Hoboken, but the people in this building are going to be the least likely of any building resident in town to have a car.

    I hope it doesn’t block or disrupt the nice view of the Lackawanna tower, that would be a shame.

    But ya, I get it, it’s a big project and people don’t like change. I’m sick of my friends moving away because they can’t afford it here. I’m not a smart guy, but I read that prices of things are determined by supply and demand. Demand to live in Hoboken is high and there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s a dope place to live.

    So the only tool we have to control prices (since state law says rent control is not applicable for 30 years post construction) is to increase supply.

    There are issues with adding new people and I hope our city’s voters pick the right people to meet those challenges.

    Sorry for rant.

    • It is reasonable to question that the Unions involved in advocating for this building are also heavily funding Mayor Ravi Bhalla and his City Council team ?

  4. No need to provide parking; the location is a public transportation hub for FFS. If people want parking, they can live elsewhere. Not offering parking should keep the traffic down. There are plenty of jobs which can easily be reached by public transportation. As for the low income housing, Hoboken already has plenty. I hope the recipients of the low inome units will be local teachers, social workers, or other deserving city workers.