The City of Hoboken held a virtual community meeting on the Hoboken Rail Yard Redevelopment Plan, now referred to as Hoboken Connect, with the latest proposal including a 20-story, 365,00 square-foot, office building and 389 residential units.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
LCOR, the designated redeveloper for the city and NJ Transit, updated the public on the Hoboken Rail Yard Redevelopment Plan, including the proposed public improvements and private development.
“A lot of people who have looked at the potential of our rail yard and the people who could benefit from it,” 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen, the chair of the council’s development committee, said.
“This is a historic opportunity for Hoboken. We really view the Hoboken Terminal as not just Hoboken’s, but New Jersey’s hidden gem,” Mayor Ravi Bhalla added.
Their development partners echoed the same sentiment.
“We’re really excited about realizing the improvements. It’s time to see this realized,” noted Senior Director of Transit Oriented Development at NJ Transit Sean Massey.
“The successful integration of each component of the project, public and private is key to our success,” chimed in LCOR Senior Vice President Brian Barry.
He noted the plan includes a 20 percent affordable housing component (meaning 79 of the 389 units would be affordable), an investment in mass transit infrastructure, and historic preservation.
There are several goals of the plan, including creating new jobs and revenue for the city, fulfilling the Master Plan, creating transit-friendly infrastructure, preserving the historic nature of the station, and creating new open space.
“Throughout the design process, we were focused on each of these elements and tying them into the project. There isn’t another project in the city that presents as broad a breath of improvements,” expressed Barry.
The projects includes the redevelopment of the old bus and ferry terminals. In addition, both market-rate and affordable units range from studios to three bedrooms.
Frank Prial, of the Beyer Blinder Belle consulting firm, explained the train terminal will be redeveloped with storefronts in the concourse with food kiosks.
Meanwhile, the second floor will have space for public events or an art gallery.
“It could be an incredible opportunity,” he said.
Landscape Architecture consultant Molly Bourne noted that Warrington Plaza is more than 100 years old and is being used for parking currently after being damaged by flooding, most notably during Hurricane Sandy.
“We’re anticipating that sea-level rise by elevating the plaza. We’re really looking forward to working with the community,” Bourne added.
“We have identified a number of public improvements that will be implemented,” stated traffic consultant Michelle Briehof.
She noted there would be a new traffic light at the bus station, and no left turns at Gardner Avenue from Observer Highway, and encourage multiple modes of transportation.
Also, there will be dedicated pickup and drop-off areas to avoid traffic jams, along with better pedestrian accommodations.
Hoboken Principal Planner Jessica Giorgianni noted plan have not been finalized. Further detailed plans still need to be presented to the community.
“Is there a forecasting of the likely population and the age group and the needs of these additional residents?,” Terry Pranses, of the rail yards task force, asked.
“The market-rate units … will tend to cater to… residents who will be utilizing mass transit to enter the city,” Barry replied.
Pranses noted there was a lot of discussion of two office buildings and parking.
“Has that evolved?,” he asked.
“We’ve assumed there’s zero parking. We’re at a mass transition destination,” Barry said.
“Certainly, the improvements on the terminal are well overdue,” Pranses added.
Barry noted they worked closely with NJ Transit to create space to accommodate buses, but the plan has not been finalized.
Additionally, Cohen asked about modernizing the PATH entrance.
“It is a very much a utilitarian entrance there, fairly charmless,” he noted, to which Barry said they are discussing infrastructure with PATH.
“It’s not something that has necessarily come up yet,” he said, noting it could be examined further.
“Cobblestones mean something to me. During WWI especially, that was the last piece of American ground some soldiers saw before they left the country. Can we preserve the stones?,” resident Paul Presinzano said regarding Warrington Plaza.
Barry said it was possible, but such plans have not been finalized.
“Could you share any current views, thoughts on the leasing prospects?,” 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher asked.
Barry said they have begun to speak to some prospective tenants, but COVID-19 impacted the process along with the time it has taken to finalize the plan.
“You are seeing tenants move to new construction,” he noted.
“Would they be paying into the public school system? How will the project be funded?,” Cohen continued.
Barry said each component would be approached differently and private development will use traditional debt and equity avenues.
The public portion will receive help from the NJ Economic Development Authority (EDA), while NJ Transit will help with improving infrastructure, which will utilize federal funds from the infrastructure plan signed into law by President Joe Biden (D).
“We worked closely with NJ Transit and their funding team to secure that funding,” he added.
Council President Mike Russo asked if the project would be constructed by labor, to which Barry said it would be.
“What buildings will be concentrated on first? When will residents get the amenities?,” Russo continued.
“We’re still actively engaged in community development … agreeing on a phasing plan,” Barry said.
He added they would likely start with Hudson Place improvements and building first, then pre-leasing the office building and securing funding for refurbishing the ferry building and the plaza.
“There’s private development and public improvements occurring simultaneously throughout that process,” he emphasized.
Barry said construction is supposed to start in 2023 and be completed in early 2029. The project has been in development since October 2014.
There will be further community meetings held by the city on the project, officials said.