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  • Terry Pranses

Hoboken Yards Site 1 -- Too Tall? Too Bulky?

The New Plan for Hoboken Yards

Giving credit — Some Improvements as the New Plan Has Evolved

Thanks to public inputs at City Council on October 2nd, full Council discussion and the public input session on October 15th, these improvements have, for now, made it into the “Amendment” as it moves along:

“Site 4” as we dubbed it: the area between Sites 2 and 3, was too open ended.

On 10/2 it read, “Future Potential Development”. Now it is “RBD/NJT Constrained

Area — No Build Zone”. However, the area remains open to reinterpretation

by a future City Council.

• “Minimum LEED certified” replaced with “Minimum LEED Silver”, a higher level.

• It eliminates changes to Plan by Planning Board. Now changes need City Council

involvement. So at least the public will have the opportunity to object or weigh in.

What to Watch?

Site 1 — by PATH Entrances: Hudson Place and Hudson Street

a.  The added 100' to a 300' total.  That’s taller than the W Hotel.  Roughly 100’ taller than the iconic Clocktower. And it’s in the middle of an existing, low-to-mid-rise area. How will those existing structures look with this height next door?

b.  The added width/massing for Site 1, with no step-backs. What does this look like? We have been told that no street-view schematics will be presented before approving this scale. Why can’t we see, before Council approves it, shadow studies of this size vs. that approved in 2014?

c. We believe step-backs are needed between the 5th and 7th floor levels on the north (Hudson Place) and west (Hudson St) to mirror lower building heights on those side.

There are trade-offs and other big questions. Those impact Site 1 and the overall scale of the project.

How much of this added size is based on financing improved spaces for potential new retail concepts?

What is the feasibility of a big retail space or “concept”? We all know the hit brick-and-mortar retail has taken. Any big concept will be competing with mega-magnets, often near consumer workplaces and commuter points. They include: Brookfield Place/World Trade area, Hudson Yards, Eataly and Chelsea Markets/near 23rdSt. and 14thSt. PATH, and (further out) American Dream/Meadowlands.

Will retail within the Terminal generate any fees or tax dollars for the City of Hoboken?

Will the demand exist without taking sales from existing Hoboken businesses?

What will be the impact on Washington Street and existing farmers’ markets?

Concerned about Sites 2 and 3? See separate articles on those.

Important Background

The Task Force started in 2008, then as the Rail Yards Task Force,in response to a plan surfaced by NJ Transit and planning/architecture firm FX FOWLE. It was wildly oversized and did not reflect the look and feel of the Mile Square City. After a long process under the leadership of Mayor Dawn Zimmer and the Hoboken City Council, a vastly-improved, smaller-scaled plan was adopted in 2014.

Now, post Rebuild By Design (“RBD”), the prior Hoboken Yards plan is being scrapped. This is mainly due to the placement of the southern barrier in or near the Rail Yards. Before we jump into “what is best now?”, let’s remember two key facts:

1. The exact placement of the barrier wall, now cutting through parts of the redevelopment zone, is a compromise. The City, united, argued for

placing the barrier along the south edge of the entire zone. NJ Transit wanted the full wall to run along the north side of the zone, along Observer Highway.

If they would have had their way, the new development would have existed almost as a separate city, always vulnerable to flooding.

2. Site 1 (previously Site 8A) was long “in the clear” during much of the multi-year RBD process. But never leased! As seen in the 2014 approved Plan, it has a 200’ tall, wedge-shaped building with several step-backs, made to fit well with the existing, much lower, Hoboken buildings that line Hudson Place and lower Hudson Street.

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