A 2,360-unit plan proposed by Manhattan Building Company for the fringes of Downtown has generated a strong reaction from the community, setting a Jersey Digs record for most comments on any article we’ve ever written. Now that we’ve profiled details of the proposal, several community associations have started taking sides on the plan.
The particulars of the project are lengthy, but the total development would include four towers rising between 23 and 50 stories each with shorter brownstone-style components connecting the high-rises. Designed by STUDIO V Architecture, retail space and 1,180 indoor parking spaces would be included in the project that could rise along several lots between Center and Bates Streets within the Bates Street Development Plan.
Manhattan Building Company would need to make changes to the redevelopment plan to build their vision, which they claim would generate $11 million in fees toward an Open Space Trust if built. The company told residents during a meeting that they would make a $2.5 million donation to build a world-class recreation center in Ward F, include a 20% affordable housing component, and invest $15 million to separate that area’s combined sewer into two systems, remove combined water lines, and build new stormwater and sanitary systems.
In a letter signed by Natalia Ioffe and Benjamin Bernouy, who represent the Center Street Block Association and Van Vorst Park Association respectively, the organizations outlined their objections to the current plan. While Manhattan Building Company did not present exact language for the amendments being proposed, the current redevelopment plan, with all available bonuses utilized, allows site density of 150 units per acre and a maximum height of 12 stories and up to 125 feet.
“The project proposed by Manhattan Building Company far exceeds what is currently allowed,” the letter states, as the density for their project “equates to well over 450 units per acre.” The associations say they have “a multitude of serious concerns that the project is grossly inappropriate for this area of the city,” as the proposal calls for the addition of approximately 2,000 residential units beyond what the current zoning allows.
“It also brings the ‘skyscraper’ typology off the waterfront which further separates the neighboring communities by creating a wall of towers,” the letter says. “In addition, the developer did not present any data that demonstrates the impact their project will have on the already stressed school system, local traffic conditions, and a lack of open park space in the area.”
The letter outlines some specific changes they would like to see to the redevelopment plan, including one regulating that any bonuses given beyond the permitted non-bonus density of 60 units per acre require a total of 30% affordable housing. They also want building height capped at 15 stories and wish to see funds contributed to the Open Space Trust put toward the immediate construction of a new public recreational center and public park east of Center Street.
“We welcome changes to the Bates Street RDP to build a better Jersey City for everyone, not just developers,” the letter concludes. “We would strongly encourage Manhattan Building Company to take this opportunity to work with City planning and the local communities to demonstrate how thoughtful design and development can create a world-class project for all stakeholders and be worthy of the best mid‐size city.”
On the flipside, Booker T. Washington Tenant Association President Sonya D. Coleman and Shutting Down the Hood’s Dwayne Baskerville penned a letter to the Jersey Journal in support of the project. “We feel the project as proposed by Manhattan Building Company for the Bates Street Redevelopment Plan is a huge opportunity to positively impact all Ward F residents,” they wrote, “especially Ward F residents who historically have not benefited from significant development in Jersey City over the past several decades.”
Both groups initially signed the letter opposing the development, but their current position is driven by wanting to see the maximum number of affordable units created and for all of them to be built on-site. But despite their vote of confidence in the proposal, they also would like to see a more concrete deal.
“We are taking the next important step of requiring the lead developer to submit a memorandum of understanding to us and then ensure the fully-specified community givebacks become part of the redevelopment agreement,” they wrote.