A local agency is looking to get its hands on a Jersey City building as part of a proposed redevelopment project and appears to be doing whatever it takes in order to ensure an ownership change.
Over a year and a half ago, we first told you about plans to create an arts-themed development at the site of a long-vacant building in Ward C in The Heights. The Artist HUB and Residences at 364-366 Palisade Avenue was expected to include 15 condominiums and a gallery for local artists. Mark Munley of New Brunswick-based New Jersey Community Capital (NJCC) told Jersey Digs at the time that this “signature project” at the corner of Franklin Street was slated to include at least four “affordable” units.
An NJCC subsidiary called Artist Hub & Residences Urban Renewal, LLC was designated as the redeveloper of the property in April 2017, even though that firm did not own the site at the time. Then, in November 2017, another firm called Roxy 364-366, LLC apparently bought the property for $750,000 from a local resident, according to NJ Parcels records.
Although it was anticipated that construction on the Artist HUB and Residences would begin as early as the first quarter of 2018, the four-story privately owned building on the premises has continued to sit empty. The structure, which once contained several apartments, the Shooting Star Beauty Salon, and an Italian restaurant and social club called The Roxy, even features one of the Jersey City Fire Department’s infamous red square box signs on the facade.
Now the property is back in the headlines once again. Over the last few months, the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency (JCRA) Board of Commissioners voted on two resolutions concerning the site.
The first resolution, which was approved by all present commissioners during the October 16, 2018, meeting, will allow the JCRA to move forward with acquiring the tract’s title “through negotiated purchase or eminent domain in order to effectuate the rehabilitation of this abandoned property.” The resolution cites the April 2017 redevelopment agreement between the JCRA and Artist Hub & Residences Urban Renewal, LLC, mentions that the property has been placed on Jersey City’s list of abandoned properties, and states that the JCRA has been authorized to act as Jersey City’s agent “to carry out the City’s powers with regard to abandoned properties.”
The JCRA’s contracted firm appraised the property’s value at $630,000, and, according to the resolution, the agency wishes to pay the existing property owner that amount for the title. If that move is unsuccessful, the JCRA reportedly intends to “file a condemnation action” in order to “acquire the title to the property through eminent domain and deposit the sum of $630,000 into Superior Court in conjunction with the filing of this condemnation action.”
The second resolution was approved by the JCRA Board of Commissioners during its November 28, 2018, meeting. This resolution allows for the ownership of Artist HUB & Residences Urban Renewal, LLC to be transferred from NJCC to its affiliate, Community Asset Preservation Corporation, along with a non-profit called Heightspace, LLC. The latter LLC, which is registered out of the Ogden Avenue house owned by Alfred Festa and Sandra Martiny, is described by the JCRA as being “comprised of artists and community leaders in the Heights neighborhood.”
There was no additional resolution regarding this tract at the JCRA’s December 2018 meeting. In a notice advertising a tax sale last month, Roxy 364-366, LLC was included on a list of property owners with “unpaid real estate taxes, water/sewer charges, and/or other municipal charges,” with City Hall mentioning that the company owed over $6,000 at the time. The LLC is still listed as the property owner in Jersey City’s tax database.