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  • Terry Pranses

The Records Building: A New Way to Achieve Adaptive Reuse on the Historic Site

Updated: Aug 22, 2020

A Call for Action: Our Update To Friends and Neighbors

The Records Building is still standing, at least as of last Sunday, August 16th, but its outlook is not good. New Jersey Transit is moving ahead with plans to tear it down. Your help is needed! Please write to Mayor Ravi Bhalla, NJ Transit, and Governor Phil Murphy, stressing that this is a historic structure that needs to be saved. (Please scroll down for those addresses.)

Built in 1904, the Records Building is the oldest structure in the Hoboken Terminal Complex. It has been put on the 10 Most Endangered historical sites list by Preservation New Jersey. More than ever, at least we all know the building is basically solid … let’s face it … it’s in a flood plain and recently survived another two more “50 year storms” plus Hurricane Isaias!

Where we have been

We again thank so many of you for your participation in the April virtual meeting about the future of the Records Building and in the City of Hoboken’s survey about the working alternatives. By overwhelming margins, the public favors Alternative #4, Adaptive Reuse/Rehabilitation in Place. To see the survey results, visit:

These public inputs were taken in conjunction with a Section 106 process initiated by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) as part of a process with named stakeholders last December. Unfortunately, on July 1st, the very same FTA announced an end to the Section 106 review, with no summary of conclusions, based on a very narrow definition of “which dollars” would be spent in the demolition.

What is the status?

Public attendees at the August 3rd regular meeting of Hoboken’s Historic Preservation Commission (the “HPC”) were astounded to learn of a July 20th virtual meeting. That included representatives from the HPC, the City of Hoboken, including the Department of Community Development, and NJ Transit’s Chief Engineer and Community Relations Regional Manager.

As reported, the main point of that meeting was to discuss the amount of salvaged materials from the Records Building, not whether salvage was the appropriate action at this point. (For instance, saving 60% of the bricks vs. saving 80%. No one was talking about 100%.) No budget and no alternative number are attached to this action, so we can only infer that the move is toward a blend of Alternative #5 (Moving it, estimated costs of $10-15 million) and/or Alternative #6 (Demolition with some salvage, estimated cost of $2.7 million). Key questions would be when, where and how any “re-creation” of the Records Building would take place.

Here are some helpful links:

For a related list of our questions about blending Alternatives #5 and #6:

For a full timeline of recent activities about the Records Building:

For more about the 10 Most Endangered List:

For more about the history of the Records Building:

Support an Enhanced Approach to Reuse in Place/Alternative #4

Please join us in urging NJ Transit and Mayor Bhalla to review and initiate several good ideas about this historic 1904 structure from NJ Transit to the City of Hoboken. They have received a well-articulated plan to transfer, from the Hoboken Yards, title for just the Records Building and its immediate land, to the City. It would utilize outside resources to pay for its rehabilitation. This plan was developed by Hoboken preservation advocate, and attorney, Allen Kratz, himself a past HPC Commisioner.

Here’s a recap and why the Task Force is urging the City and the HPC to closely examine it.

NJ Transit only provides better temporary safety protection prior to the transfer.  

If title itself is a barrier, a long-term lease could suffice.

The best implementation scenario includes an independent engineer who has

experience with deteriorated historic load-bearing masonry-wall buildings.

He/she/that firm would conduct a full-scale, exterior + interior investigation.

If found the Records Building can be rehabilitated, the City would acquire it at no cost

and issue an RFP for a multidisciplinary team who would take on all aspects of

adaptive reuse.

That RFP should include the task of securing historic preservation grants and

matching funds. 

In further proof of the viability of such an approach, assuming the structural capability, Paul Somerville, a past HPC Commissioner, and a past Chair, shared a statement of interest in such adaptive reuse on the current site by a well-established Hoboken development company. Mr. Somerville outlined that interest in the April 16th meeting. Details on that possibility were included in a July 17th letter to Mayor Bhalla. Parallel explanations were made to the NJ Transit Board at both their May and June 2020 meetings.

Where to write:

Please urge them to implement this enhanced Alternative #4 for the Records Building — to conduct a full-scale, exterior + interior investigation, and to issue an RFP for a multidisciplinary team who would take on all aspects of adaptive reuse.

Mayor Ravi Bhalla:

The Mayor has expressed his interest in adaptive reuse, but he has not yet followed up on this new approach for ownership and funding.

NJ Transit President & CEO Kevin Corbett:

Yes, write to him or copy him. Our tax dollars are funding most of their overall budget this year so all New Jersey residents have a voice.

Governor Phil Murphy:

Our State government does not provide a public-facing email address for the Governor. He has broad oversight authority for NJ Transit. This is a “portal” for sharing concerns. There is a “Topic” scroll down to take you to “NJ Transit”, then inputs box.

Post the Task Force:

If you have additional thoughts about a new life for the historic Records Building, please share them with us!

Many thanks for your interest and continued involvement!

Melissa Abernathy

Margaret Clarkson

Cindy Cray

Barbara Gross

Claire Lukacs

Jim Magenheimer

Terry Pranses

Patricia Samperi


Responsible Development Task Force of Hoboken

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