In an editorial, Fund for a Better Waterfront Executive Director Ron Hine expresses why the Hoboken City Council needs to reject the current version of the North End Redevelopment Plan next week.
On Wednesday, March 3rd, the Hoboken City Council, which also serves as the city’s redevelopment authority, will cast one of its most fateful votes.
It will determine the future of 30 acres north of 14th Street, the North End, which represents the final large undeveloped tract of land in town.
This is an opportunity to create a new neighborhood using the best planning tools available and replicating the qualities that has made Hoboken a successful community.
Unfortunately, the North End Redevelopment Plan, as currently written, is not up to the task. The essential bulk and height controls provided by the local zoning ordinance for residential districts are missing from this plan.
The current lot lines will be erased, thus allowing for massive building footprints. The promise of a park and open space will not be fulfilled due to the failure to understand how public spaces are created.
The North End Redevelopment Plan touts three and a half acres of open space, nearly half of which it identifies as a linear public park. This is a disingenuous claim. None of this open space qualifies as a park. Successful parks are bounded by public streets.
This so-called park is bounded by private buildings and thus will serve and be perceived as a front yard or a backyard for these buildings.
Municipalities are given the power to map their streets and public spaces, and create the blocks and lots for private development. Municipalities have zoning powers to determine lot coverage, rear yard setbacks, densities and building heights.
When these powers are used to promote good urban design and development, everyone benefits.
Rezoning the North End could have allowed this process to move forward years ago in an orderly fashion, in scale and in character with the historic streets of Hoboken that have made this city such a desirable place to live.
But the City chose to go the redevelopment route, hiring a team of consultants, and spending the past twelve years undergoing a tortured process that has resulted in a plan that fails in so many ways.
Without clearly defined lots and lot coverage requirements, developers will come in with proposals for massive, monolithic buildings. The traditional development of Hoboken blocks with many buildings representing varied architectural styles will be absent.
Developers will drive the process. Built into the redevelopment plan are incentives for the City to allow for taller, denser and more imposing structures in exchange for developer “give-backs” such as a community center, elementary school, museum and public works facility.
Attorneys that are brought in to negotiate developer agreements are unlikely to be focused on good urban design.
The Hoboken City Council should reject the current plan and allow time to correct its deficiencies. It has been a 12 year process.
To spend several more months to ensure that this will be a successful development is the right thing to do.
Fund for a Better Waterfront Executive Director