Park Willow redevelopment zone
Yet another high-rise zone on the Roberts agenda
Developer Dave Roberts is at it again. On the heels of his support for the 80-story NJ Transit redevelopment scheme, Roberts is greasing the wheels for yet another out-of-scale redevelopment project. This time it’s at the city’s northern entrance.
Eight blocks of land between 14th and 17th streets, Park Avenue and Grand Street are included in a new proposed “area in need of redevelopment” on the agenda for this Wednesday night’s City Council meeting. Redevelopment plans give developers special exemptions from zoning law and the right to negotiate Payments In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOTS).
40-story towers coming to North Hoboken?
There is nothing in the resolution describing what the Mayor wants built on these blocks, so had to do a little digging around to find out what’s going on. An investor group calling itself “Park Willow LLC” has been buying up properties including the Stahl Soap building and Macy’s Parade Studio. Park Willow’s tax bills go to an E.J. Hunter in Parsippany.
The group is believed to be behind a poll of residents last year that asked if they would support a plant to build a set of forty story office towers. Though no plans have been shown to the council, it’s well more than likely that the developers have shown their plans to our high-rise happy Mayor and his Community Development Director Fred Bado, whose job it will be to convince the council to go along with it.
Park Willow LLC gets funds for remediation
Park Willow has yet to present any proposal to the City Council or Planning Board, but it has already gotten a nod from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. With no approvals or even a public unveiling of Park Willow’s plan, the EDA awarded the project one million dollars for cleanup. The Star Ledger reported on January 13th:
“Park Willow LLC asked for up to $1 million reimbursement of costs to remediate nearly five acres on the Hoboken waterfront for a $1.1 billion residential and commercial project. Park Willow has proposed building 1.8 million square feet of office space, 300 condominium units and 85,000 square feet of ground-floor retail on the site. The four-block redevelopment site contained several industrial businesses, including an auto body repair shop, an elevator supply and repair firm, a sheet metal shop, a soap factory and a car wash.”
You read that right. 300 condos, 85,000 square feet of retail and a whopping 1.8 million square feet of office space. Of course, nothing in the Hoboken Zoning Code or the Master Plan allows for anything anywhere near this scale (or even these uses) on these blocks. Park Willow has gotten approval from the state for a million tax dollars for a project they have yet to even ask for approvals for on several properties they don’t even own yet!
Eminent Domain would likely be needed
According to state tax records, Park Willow LLC owns all the properties on blocks 133 and 134 (Burlington Coat, Macy’s Studio, etc.), and some of block 125 (near the Hess)(see map). Since other people own portions of blocks 122, 123, 125, 131, 140 and 141 you can safely assume that in order for the developer’s lofty high-rise vision to be achieved through redevelopment that some of these owners could be facing the taking of their land by the city to be handed over to Park Willow.
What happens now?
The city council will be asked to pass a resolution calling on the Planning Board to begin a study of a “proposed area in need of redevelopment.” This is just a formality, with politically connected planners and consultants being awarded big contracts to go through the motions. The question today is whether the council will go through with it, and whether state monitor Judy Tripodi will do anything to overrule them if they don’t.
The public will be allowed to comment on the resolution at the meeting. If you don’t want to see 40 story high-rise office towers on Park Avenue, you might want to let your councilperson know, speak at the meeting, and add your voice to the comments section.