7/6/2010:

Rockefeller still pushing 40-story Hoboken building

Here’s one sign the economy may be turning around. The Rockefeller Group is ratcheting up its public relations effort to build a massive commercial complex on Hoboken’s northern gateway. In early 2009, word got out Rockefeller was buying up properties through a subsidiary called Park Willow, LLC. They own several lots between 14th and 17th streets from Park to Grand. Rockefeller wants the city to approve a massive redevelopment scheme that will include several office towers, the largest being 40 stories tall.

Rockefeller: “We are working with Mayor Zimmer”

Some thought the Rockefeller Group plan would die with the election of Mayor Dawn Zimmer. Not so, says Rockefeller, which claims they are working with Zimmer to move the plan forward. This from NorthJersey.com:

“Rockefeller Group Development Corp. has an exciting and comprehensive vision, which includes predominately office and retail space on the land it owns, along with cultural and waterfront activities on the adjacent public land,” according to a statement issued by the company last week. “We are working closely with Mayor (Dawn) Zimmer and the City of Hoboken to make that vision a reality in order to bring tax relief, jobs, economic benefits and recreation to Hoboken residents.”

The article written by the Star Ledger’s Josh Margolin includes this response from City Hall:

“In an interview and e-mail exchange, Zimmer sounded a slower, more cautious note and denied that her administration — in place for 11 months — has been in discussions with Rockefeller. “There have been no negotiations with the Rockefeller Group regarding their project by my administration,” she said.

That’s not what we’ve been hearing. On February 25th, 2010 Hoboken411 reported that Zimmer met behind closed doors with Rockefeller Group officials to discuss their plans:

Tootsie Roll is no longer at 15th and Willow. The Macy’s Parade Studio is there for now. Multinational developer Rockefeller Group owns the property and has a plan to build 40-story towers on the site. City Hall sources tell Hoboken411 Mayor Dawn Zimmer met with Rockefeller Group officials behind closed doors several weeks ago. No word on the outcome of that meeting.

This non-public meeting with a major landowner and developer in the Mayor’s office was not included in the weekly barrage of spin-filled press releases from 94 Washington Street. Zimmer’s people never denied it, either. Sources say Rockefeller Group representatives left the meeting smiling.

Zimmer needs cash Rockefeller has

Dawn Zimmer made a lot of campaign promises. Some – like the “guaranteed” 25% property tax cut – were abandoned as soon as she won the November special election.
Others like her pledge to build new parks are still out there with no real action taken. Proponents of the Rockefeller plan say it could bring in millions of dollars to help pay for some of the open space proposals, and that commercial development (even 40 stories tall) will have less of an impact on the city than residential.

One of the proponents may be appointed 4th ward councilman Michael Lenz, who has spoken in favor of more commercial development. In fact, Lenz used to work for a development firm, and for years identified himself as an “Independent Real Estate Consultant.” Lenz even supported a plan to build a high-rise office building where Pier A Park is today. While some say large-scale commercial real estate will lower Hoboken’s taxes, others say all the office buildings on the southern waterfront did little to avoid a 47% tax increase.

Rockefeller seeking statewide support

The placement of a story about Rockefeller’s plan in one of the state’s largest newspapers is no accident. Rockefeller has already received a million dollars from the state to help move the project forward, and will be seeking support from top lawmakers to make it a reality. The argument will be “New Jersey needs the money,” and so does Hoboken.

What do you think? Does the economic development and millions in new tax revenue that a 40-story, $1 billion dollar complex would bring to Hoboken be worth changing the feel of this town forever? Is Zimmer being up-front about her feelings (or the feelings of her handlers) about this project, or do her secret, closed-door meetings with the developer bother you? Comment below.