One Journal Square, the stalled Kushner Companies development was expected to join Journal Squared sometime in 2018. But continued financial delays and political woes have kept the project in limbo.
To recap, One Journal Square, then a 57-story mixed-use development, was approved by the Jersey City Planning Board in 2015. But the project became embroiled in controversy when representatives of Kushner Companies were reported as soliciting funding for the project from Chinese investors under the EB-5 visa program. The tactic was seen as the Kushner family leveraging their connection to the Trump administration; Jared Kushner is Trump’s son-in-law and a Senior White House adviser. As reported by Jersey Digs, “The legal, although ironic tactic given the company’s connection to President Trump and his anti-immigration stance, has been dubbed ‘the crack cocaine of real estate financing,’ according to The Real Deal. Not only cheaper than bank financing, the program gives developers more flexibility when raising money for a project.”
WeWork, the project’s anchor tenant, then backed out of the project, taking with it $59 million in tax breaks. Kushner Companies also dropped its request for a 30-year tax abatement from the city. Eventually, a scaled-back version of One Journal Square — now a two-tower project — was approved in September 2017.
The latest update, as reported by Bloomberg News and Barron’s in January, is that Kushner Cos. has secured a $57 million loan from Fortress Investment Group. This is just a small portion of the funding needed to move forward with the project.
Additional intrigue occurred when Bloomberg News reported a meeting between Charlie Kushner, the family’s controversial patriarch, and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop. According to Kushner Companies spokeswoman Christine Taylor, the pair discussed potential incentives for Journal Square; a spokeswoman for the city, however, emphasized, “The mayor didn’t indicate any support for the project as there isn’t a formal proposal or application to review.”
In response to the Bloomberg News story, Fulop tweeted, “I think our office/comment is 100% clear in the story. Our position has NOT changed + we don’t see support for incentives or abatements from the city for this project. They can legally apply + It’s the council’s vote but as I said to them I suspect it’s DOA.”
In this report of rather uneventful back-and-forth between the development company and the city, a Kushner Cos. spokeswoman stated that they planned to be “shovel ready” for One Journal Square sometime in 2018.
Community leaders still hope the project moves forward. In a statement, Bill Armbruster, President of the New JSQ Community Association, told Jersey Digs, “We are eager to see One Journal Square developed. Some of us attended a presentation by KABR in October 2015, and we were very impressed. This is probably the most valuable undeveloped property in Jersey City, and it’s infuriating that this property has just been an empty lot for the past 10 years. I fear that if construction does not begin within the next 18 months, it could remain vacant for another 10 years.”
Yet in light of Kushner Cos. ongoing rebranding efforts, any announcements regarding the future of One Journal Square should be met with continued skepticism. The New JSQ Community Association also stated, “We’re also very much aware of the sensitivities with this project due to Jared Kushner’s involvement, and his company’s use of the EB-5 visa program to help finance their Bay Street project. Our Construction and Planning Committee, as well as our board, will be paying careful attention to this project, and we will issue our recommendation to city officials at an appropriate time, subject to approval by our members.”
Kushner Companies/KABR could not be reached for comment.