|During the course of the past 20 years, Jersey City’s waterfront has seen an incredible
transformation as old industrial sites and abandoned rail lines have been replaced by
office towers, luxury condominiums, thriving retail establishments and a waterfront walk-
way that offers some of
the world’s greatest views.
By Jerramiah T. Healy
Mayor, Jersey City
Since I took office four years ago, we have continued the city’s efforts to attract businesses and to encourage residential development on our Waterfront through the use of incentives and by communicating the unique transportation and quality of life attributes that downtown Jersey City has to offer. However, extending development and its corresponding prosperity beyond the Waterfront has been this Administration’s primary economic development goal.
Development off the waterfront faces unique obstacles such as the clean-up of contaminated sites and less accessibility to mass transit options like waterfront ferries. However, as downtown Jersey City becomes a destination in and of itself and with its proximity to Manhattan, off the waterfront locales have become desirable areas for development. Nonetheless, ingenuity and bold government action have been necessary to spur progress. For example, the Beacon Condominiums that are being developed in the historic buildings that once housed the Jersey City Medical Center in McGinley Square and Canco Lofts, which offer luxury residences in the former American Can Company factory beneath the Pulaski Skyway, were only made possible with the assistance of 30-year tax abatements.
The two off the Waterfront development initiatives that we are most excited about are Journal Square and the Bayfront Redevelopment Area. Both of these areas had unique and significant obstacles that required perseverance and governmental ingenuity to overcome. We have only begun the journey toward making Journal Square and the Bayfront Area two of the most thriving, aesthetically pleasing, and transit-oriented urban developments in America.
Reviving Journal Square Journal Square is the traditional heart and commercial hub of Jersey City. Unfortunately, like many other urban downtowns, for the past 40 years Journal Square has been gradually declining and descending into blight. Retail establishments closed down and buildings fell into disrepair. Longtime Jersey City residents look back nostalgically to better days at Journal Square, which was the site of some of their fondest memories, such the place of their first date or where they went on family outings.
With the resurrection of interest in urban living and a PATH station that provides quick and easy access to Manhattan, we knew that Journal Square was ready for redevelopment. Our first focus was the Hotel on the Square, a series of buildings adjoining the Port Authority Transportation Complex. Confronted with an absent and negligent landlord who let his buildings become dangerous eyesores, we aggressively issued fines and sought demolition of the buildings. As a result of our aggressive stance, the city received $1 million in fines, the largest fine ever collected by the Jersey City Municipal Court. The previous delinquent landlord sold his property to developers that are moving forward with a $500 million investment to build two towers.
To facilitate this development in an unproven area and in a difficult real estate market, the city has extended a 30-year tax abatement that will enable the developers to go forward with 1,615 residential units and over 70,000 square feet of retail space. This project will be a tremendous economic stimulus, creating 800 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs. Currently, this property produces less than $350,000 a year in property taxes, but with this development, city tax payments are projected to total more than $123 million over the course of 30 years. Additionally, the project will generate more than $30 million dollars in Urban Enterprize Zone (UEZ) revenue over 30 years and produce more than $19 million in parking taxes for the city during that time period. The city will also receive $2.8 million for the construction of affordable housing. Most importantly, this pioneer development will revitalize Journal Square as a lively central business district with robust foot traffic, transform and enhance the retail market in Journal Square and will encourage new residential and retail development.
Our vision for Journal Square is much broader than this $500 million project at the former Hotel on the Square, which is why we have been undertaking a study to create a new vision for the development of the Journal Square area. We retained the renowned planner Tony Nelessen and Architect Dean Marchetto to help us develop this vision. We have also solicited the input of the community through an unprecedented public participation process that included several public meetings and interactive design charrettes that sought the input from residents and land owners in the Journal Square area.
Our goal is to create a national icon of sustainable mixed use development that is pedestrian and transit oriented. We expect to present a redevelopment plan that will cover 244 acres, centering on the Journal Square Transportation Center. Our objective is to enhance the economic vitality of the Square by expanding the level of residential and commercial activity in Journal Square and by promoting a pattern of mixed and multiple use development. New buildings will combine residential, commercial and entertainment uses and encourage a balance of jobs to housing, while making walking easy, desirable and convenient. With the new $500 million development currently being undertaken, we are well on our way to making our vision for Journal Square become a reality.
Developing the Bayside Our efforts to spur development on the West Side of our city also faced unique obstacles. For years, there was much talk of developing a new section of Jersey City along the Hackensack River, but these ideas were confined to a planner’s desk. A major obstacle stood in the way—the chromium contamination that is the legacy of the manufacturing history of this area of our city.
The Cleanup Some thought we were impatient and others thought we were crazy when we initiated litigation in state and federal courts against a multinational, multi-billion dollar corporation to seek a thorough and expeditious remediation of chromium contamination on properties owned by Jersey City along Route 440. But this litigation led to mediation and ultimately to a public-private partnership between Honeywell International and Jersey City. Honeywell is currently remediating the chromium contamination that is the result of the manufacturing activities of its corporate predecessor pursuant to New Jersey’s new chromium remediation guidelines, widely considered to be the strictest in the nation. After the area is fully remediated and infrastructure is put in place, Honeywell and Jersey City will work together to attract developers to build a mixed use transit-oriented 100 acre community known as the Bayfront.
The Bayfront Redevelopment Plan calls for up to 8,000 new residential units, one million square feet of commercial and retail space and more than 20 acres of new parks and open space. A focal point of the development will be a station for the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail. This development will be green and aesthetically pleasing, as there is a prohibition of artificial veneers and vinyl siding and a requirement that multiple designers and architectural firms be used in order to avoid repetitive looks in the building’s facades and design. The plan also encourages that all buildings within the Bayfront Area conform to the standards of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating Program. Finally, the plan will also provide for up to 800 units of affordable and workforce housing.
The development of the Bayfront Area will also generate numerous construction and permanent jobs. We project the development to create at least 10,000 construction jobs. When applied to a 20 year build out, the project would average 500 on-site construction jobs annually. The project should also generate 1,400 retail jobs, 4,000 office jobs and 400 property management jobs.
Pursuant to the agreement between Jersey City and Honeywell, the city and Honeywell will pool their collective property so that it can be sold to developers once it is remediated. Honeywell and the city will split the proceeds pursuant to a percentage that reflects their respective share of property dedicated to the partnership. Preliminarily, we anticipate that Honeywell will obtain 60 percent of the sales revenues while the city will get 40 percent. We currently project that the Bayfront Area can potentially generate total sales revenues of between $160 million and $400 million, with the city’s share ranging from $64 million to $160 million.
The prospects of the Bayfront development are exciting. As we move forward, we will work hard to ensure that the remediation is undertaken expeditiously and thoroughly, that the development is of the highest quality, and that the city reaps the greatest financial reward possible.
Bayfront and Journal Square are two of the most exciting urban redevelopment projects in America. While we are pleased with our progress so far, we are excited about the future and dedicated to bringing these plans to fruition.