For months, construction work at 245 Newark Avenue hummed right along on Downtown Jersey City’s major thoroughfare. The five-story development, courtesy of a company called Village Green Estates, was approved back in April 2015 to add 54 apartments, 13 parking spaces, and retail space of just over 4,000 square feet to the neighborhood.
However, work has stopped at the property in recent months despite a sign claiming the apartments are now leasing and a website being launched trumpeting the building’s impending arrival. On May 22, the developer placed the project on the planning board’s agenda seeking a site plan amendment with deviations, an unusual request for a building whose entire frame is already constructed.
The changes proposed include taller building height than previously approved, different façade materials, and the addition of mezzanines on the first and fifth stories of the structure. The new version is also seeking to supersize the retail component of the building to 9,509 square feet and increase the max floor-to-ceiling height for residential units.
The application was later carried to the board’s June 19 meeting, and it turns out the changes the developer is seeking approval for are already built. James McCann, the lawyer representing Village Green Estates, told the board during testimony that the proposed deviations have already been installed, meaning the development was not constructed in accordance with the 2015 approvals.
As a result, the attorney for Village Green Estates offered to schedule site visits for planning board members as part of the approval process. The board’s chairman, Christopher Langston, agreed to do so and stated in response to a question from a member of the public that the board has engaged in site visits on occasion in the past.
The waters at 245 Newark Avenue are somewhat muddy in terms of how we got here. Rutherford-based Inglese Architecture + Engineering was the architect of record on the initial 2015 project, but the changes submitted to the board were drawn up by Hampton Hill Architecture. In an email to Jersey Digs, a representative from Inglese Architecture disclosed that he had been informed that a few modifications were made to the exterior of 245 Newark Avenue without the firm’s knowledge or consent.
There is additionally some debate as to who gets to make the call about the future of 245 Newark Avenue. The city’s zoning office determined that the planning board has jurisdiction over the application, but an appeal has been filed over that decision and will be heard July 17. That action is supported by both the Van Vorst Park Association and The Village Neighborhood Association.
Regardless of jurisdiction, 245 Newark’s concrete frame is already built, the ceiling heights are in place, the building is topped off, and most of the façade on the upper floors is installed. That reality appears to leave whoever has a say over the application with few options, as denying the changes would not allow the building’s completion to move forward.
Some clarity on the future of 245 Newark Avenue should emerge at the end of next month. If the active zoning appeal is denied, the planning board is tentatively scheduled to hear the remainder of the application for the project at their July 24 meeting.