Zoning Changes Hope to Spark a Journal Square Arts District

journal square arts district
via Google

With Journal Squared set to start leasing soon and three more towers about to hit the neighborhood, it’s impossible to view Journal Square as anything but on the rise. But while the new building boom may get all the attention, the city is hoping some zoning changes near a historic landmark spark some cultural revitalization.

Last week, Jersey City’s Council unanimously approved changes to the Journal Square 2060 Redevelopment Plan that they hope will facilitate a new arts district behind the Loew’s Theater. It aims to create “cultural amenities” in an alley known as Concourse West that’s directly behind the theater, which is currently filled with several parking lots and garages.

journal square arts district corridor
via Google

The plan, drawn up by Studio V Architecture and known as the Zone 10 Arts District, envisions revitalizing the alley to make it more pedestrian and business friendly, aiming to add retail, residential buildings and parks in the process. It would extend the existing concourse past its’ current terminus at Magnolia Avenue through Pavonia and Van Reipen Avenues, helping to connect Journal Square to other western arts destinations like Mana Contemporary.

journal square arts district plan
Credit: Studio V Architecture

To facilitate this, the zoning changes include building height bonuses for open space and cultural amenities. Per the map above, the city would allow both Building 1 and Building 4 to rise as high as 37 stories, while Buildings 2, 3, and 5 would be less than 50 feet high. But a “Cultural Facility Bonus” is part of the plan, meaning that if a developer were to create certain spaces in the shorter buildings, additional stories could be added to the high-rise structures.

Potential developers would obtain the bonuses if they include spaces for theaters, art galleries, art and dance studios, museums, libraries, rehearsal studios, cafes, or general retail along the corridor. The new zoning also says the concourse “shall incorporate retail edges where practical to activate the space and provide a greater sense of safety.”

Part of bringing the area to life will include creating three separate plazas at Magnolia, Pavonia and Van Reipen Avenues, plus adding some greenery and seating areas to the alleyway. Sites 6 and 7 under the plan, which are at opposite ends of the concourse, would be set aside for pedestrians, roadway circulation and several public amenities under the new zoning, with the city envisioning an amphitheater, a dog run and playgrounds on those properties.

journal square arts district map
Credit: Studio V Architecture

The new zoning also establishes bonuses for contributions to a public arts fund and requires builders make various infrastructure improvements, public walkway connections to the PATH station, and easements for public use, which the city hopes will help secure future access to the air rights above the PATH tracks. Any developers who apply to build in Zone 10 will need to enter into an agreement with the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency before approval.

The zoning is obviously brand new, so no formal plans have been proposed by developers yet. But the Harwood family, who own much of the land, have publicly said they are interested in upgrading their properties, which could mean more growth for the burgeoning neighborhood.


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