Following Development Denial, 520 Palisade Avenue Listed for Sale

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520 Palisade Avenue The Heights Jersey City Exterior
520 Palisade Avenue, The Heights, Jersey City. Photo by Chris Fry/Jersey Digs.

A vacant building in the heart of The Heights was once the proud home of the Ladder 10 Fire Company, serving the community for many decades. Built around 1920, the station was eventually disbanded and has gone through many incarnations over the years, most recently housing a Filipino gift shop on the ground floor.

In 2015, Jersey City-based Pronti Construction purchased the property for $2.5 million and drew up a redevelopment proposal. Designed by G3 Architecture, the expansion would have brought residences to the property, including a lift-style parking garage, and preserved most of the original building. All told, 18 units, 10 parking spaces, and 2,000 square feet of retail space were to be included in the project.

520 Palisade Avenue The Heights Jersey City Rendering
Rendering of proposed development. Rendering via G3 Architecture.

While the development’s height was generally in line with the surrounding neighborhood, Pronti needed several variances, including ones for use and density, to allow the project to move forward. The company eventually went before Jersey City’s Zoning Board on Oct. 16 last year, but the plans were rejected after a special meeting.

Following the denial, it appears Pronti gave up on the land. 520 Palisade was listed for sale in November for $6.95 million, a price that includes the building and an adjacent lot housing an alley and parking structure. Several plans have been presented for the property over the years, but none have really gained traction in part due to community opposition.

The denial and potential sale of the building has kicked off a debate about The Heights moving forward. The neighborhood, already densely packed and generally lacking vacant parcels, is unquestionably a hot market at this stage. Central Avenue is a solid retail corridor, but abandoned buildings still dot some of the landscape along Palisade Avenue.

Palisade Avenue The Heights Jersey City Vacant
Abandoned building along Palisade Avenue near Riverview Park. Photo by Chris Fry/Jersey Digs.

The zoning limits in the area sometimes make the financial feasibility of revitalizing some of these blighted properties difficult. Much of The Heights has what’s called R-1 zoning, which restricts as-of-right development to one- and two-family homes. Properties on sections of some roads, including Palisade Avenue, have R-2 zoning and allow attached multi-family housing, but restrict height to four stories or less.

The Heights Jersey City Zoning Map
Zoning, The Heights. Map courtesy Jersey City.

Most projects proposed for The Heights aren’t taller than five stories, but nonetheless, tend to run into at least some community opposition because of existing zoning. A five-story redevelopment project including retail space at Palisade Lumber’s property will soon head to the Planning Board, but one community group isn’t happy about it and is taking legal action.

After a Jersey City Zoning Officer determined that Palisade Lumber’s property has no bulk, density, height, or parking standards for mixed-use developments, only a minor variance will be needed from the Planning Board for the project to move forward. The Riverview Neighborhood Association is appealing that decision, arguing that the zoning officer’s interpretation will make it easier to construct taller buildings (five stories and up) on sections of Palisade Avenue that have R-2 zoning.

“This developer and lawyer is attempting to circumvent the process of continuing to work with the community or having the variance heard at the Zoning Board,” the group wrote in their February newsletter to explain their actions.

The outcome of the court challenge remains to be seen, but a continued rebirth in The Heights will undoubtedly cause a debate as to how to balance combating vacant properties with reasonable development that’s in scale with the community.

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37 COMMENTS

  1. I live in the heights and just don’t understand. It’s literally abandoned, and an eyesore- not sure why Riverview Arts district is so opposed.

    • They are opposed because RNA is made up of a bunch of outsiders trying to establish themselves as powers in Jersey City. Being born, raised and still residing in The Heights area, my 46 years of knowledge entitles me to comment as I watch this sad group of people ruin prosperity time and time again for this area with great potential. It’s time for Palisade Avenue (screw Ogden Avenue, all they really care about) to develop. Fingers crossed that people stop listening to a group that couldn’t make it elsewhere ends soon. You know who you are 😉

      • So I’m confused…. you’d rather let it sit there abandoned?? How does that help the neighborhood?!?!

        I understand you feel entitled as you’ve lived here your whole life but what would you propose to happen to this place? Things change, and I’m not sure how keeping these places empty is helping The Heights.

  2. I think it should be allowed to go ahead as is. The argument is BS, seriously, no-one is going to build higher than 5 stories in the area!

  3. The firehous project they proposed was 90ft high. Come to RNA meetings and find out they are not outsiders. Have your voice heard. It’s the outsiders that want to build up Palisade Ave. and make it look like Hoboken.

    • There wasn’t any room for negotiation or compromise? I mean, this building is so terrible to look at! From what I’ve been reading about these projects, most of the complaints are from people whose views are going to be blocked because of construction (lumberyard– on the RNA facebook page). I mean are people really not going to allow the development of a neighborhood because their precious views are going to be blocked? So selfish. I haven’t seen all of the proposed developments but it’s time for the neighbors of the heights think about how they can improve these abandoned spaces instead of letting them just sit there and rot away just because they don’t want their roofdeck views blocked!
      And of course developers are outsiders! But I don’t see members of the RNA coming together to purchase the property to make it a community center- it just seems they’re blocking any progress of the neighborhood without any solution!

      • Unfortunately the developer opted not to compromise with the neighbors and instead pushed for a hearing at the zoning board. The zoning board was only able to vote for or against the proposal and the necessary variances they required to expand the building. The zoning board suggested the developer find a compromise with the neighbors and resubmit, but the developer chose to sell the property instead. For the record, the RNA did not oppose this project.

        The zoning board heard from the developer as well as from individual neighbors within 200’ of the property. These neighbors were overwhelmingly in favor of developing the property opposed to the proposed variances. None of those neighbors mentioned blocked views of the city being an issue at the hearing.

  4. This article is inaccurate. The proposal submitted to and denied by the zoning board did not include any parking, and was significantly larger than the existing structure which is already larger than the other buildings in the neighborhood. Take a look at the rendering in the article – as proposed it would have sat in the center of the block, towering over all surrounding homes. The multiple variances requested included building all the way to the property line in the back, right up to 4-5 neighbor’s yards and and also eliminated the parking lot in favor of additional, new construction.

  5. The neighbors around the project did not want the rear of the building towering close to their property lines. We all want the property developed but not out of scale. Mr Pronti is encouraged to find a less intrusive design for the rear of the building so the project can move forward. Developers want the building height to capitalize on the NYC views high values. Most property owners don’t want a wall of concrete and windows hanging over them like the great wall of China.

    • Wouldn’t this be the back of the neighbors houses? These houses are on Ogden right? Don’t they have front windows with their own views of the city? What does the RNA propose to do with it now since it’s been blocked?? Just let it sit there and decay?

  6. Now it’s going to sit because the realtor put a wildly insane number on it just to get the listing…. which he does with 90% of his other listings and then they sit sit sit sit and sit some more. Which is where this will be in a year from now 🙂

  7. Riverview association is garbage ….so let an eyesore sit there for another few years instead of a nice building? Get over yourself !

  8. Your comment Higgity is false. The developer compromised on numerous occasions throughout the process. However he did hit a point when he was not able continue. The neighbors and RNA need to compromise also. Its a 2 way street. We all need to come together for the neighborhood as a whole. Its unfortunate that RNA does not see it that way. The few squeaky wheels should not be allowed to set the tone of the neighborhood for the years and decades to come. And for the record, the RNA didn’t oppose the project, but they didn’t support it either. They were neutral on it which is very different than supporting it. The area looks like a war zone. It’s time for some change and improvements that will benefit everyone.

    • The facts are that the proposal requested variances for both increased height and depth and included zero parking spots. The compromises offered reduced the initially proposed size from ‘way too high’ and ‘way too deep’ to what was determined to be still ‘too high’ and ‘too deep.’ They also removed the few parking spots which were initially proposed. We agree that the RNA did not support the project but they also did not oppose it. The neighbors who would have lived in the shadow of this behemoth asked that the building be kept to scale with the rest of the neighborhood. The RNA did not kill the project. The neighbors did not kill the project. The zoning board denied the requested variances and as a result the developer walked away. Everyone was within their rights here. Hopefully this property gets redeveloped and as you say, the improvements benefit everyone.

    • Anna, thank you.

      I purchased a home in the Heights about a year ago and am so saddened to see these buildings just sitting here decaying.

    • you have NEVER been in a war zone, I venture. Not even East New York in the 1980’s…or the Heights in the 1970’s

  9. Continuity and consistency. Any building built here forward should comply with the aesthetic of previous new dwellings. Rebuilding a neighborhood proper. Make sense. In concern to abatements anything more than 5 years is a land rape.
    The real zoning problem lies west where some contractor is constructing brass lined two families in 120 days. I’ve seen plumbingless log cabins take longer and have more appeal

    • Because abandoned buildings are a lot better????… I’m sorry the plan that the developer had was a lot better than what we have now.

  10. If everyone here actually showed up at planning board meeting and stopped letting the so-called “outsiders” have the loudest voice in the room then maybe things would have been different. Your comments here are meaningless.

  11. Comments here are a waste of time. Suggest you all attend community meetings and zoning variance hearings and planning board meetings to get informed and make your voices heard. Anything else is almost useless blather.

  12. I live 3 buildings down and personally am glad this particular project did not get approved. Yes it’s a real eyesore, but I’d rather build it right than something cheap and fast with zero parking.

    People are always focused on here and now with little regard for 10, 20, 50 years from now. My building is 104 years old and still going strong. There is architectural continuity between the buildings on this block and I feel that should be preserved. The developer of 500 Palisade worked a cornice into their design that lines up with the neighboring buildings. And parking… Guess what? That building got approved!

  13. are you guys kidding me, this did have parking? did any one of you even review the plans? or are you just parroting what your “leader” in this garbage RNA association says. I’m so fed up with the RNA blocking progress. #disbandtherna

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