One of the more significant development proposals slated for a block of Downtown Jersey City is apparently no longer moving forward amid allegations that officials suddenly changed construction requirements after years of negotiations.
Way back in February 2020, Jersey Digs was the first outlet to report on a development from Lennar Multifamily Communities (LMC). The company, which recently completed The Lively just blocks away, was looking to revitalize a 1.81-acre parcel between First and Second streets that straddles Marin Boulevard and Grove Street.
The lot consists of 38 prefabricated homes, all but one of which LMC had agreed to purchase. The plan, drawn up by New York-based Beyer Blinder Belle, consisted of a 50-story high-rise that would gradually step down as it heads west, bottoming out to three stories at the lowest point.
The $310 million project, dubbed Laurel & Saddlewood, was to contain 810 rental apartments and include 41 units of affordable housing. 14,000 square feet of retail space would be featured on the ground floor and a 50,000-square-foot public school that would house about 300 Pre-K to 5th graders was included in the proposal.
Trouble began quickly as a now-disposed lawsuit was filed by the community’s lone holdout, Saddlewood Court LLC. The company, controlled by Shuster Management’s Eyal Shuster and Adam Knoll, claimed that the city was trying to “redevelop an area that is not blighted.”
Despite the case, Jersey City eventually approved a redevelopment plan in November 2020. A second lawsuit from Shuster and Knoll that is still scheduled for trial next month claimed that Jersey City entered a corrupt “secret agreement” on the deal, but the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency nonetheless moved to condemn the final townhouse in November last year.
All that work seems to have been for naught, as a source told the Jersey Journal that LMC has canceled the project. The source claims that Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop recently added new conditions to the deal demanding the project hire “100% union” labor, which would have increased the project’s cost by about $70 million.
Per a February 10th email to homeowners, LMC’s Vice President of Development Charles Epstein allegedly told homeowners that the company “worked diligently to try to make the development work out, but as more requirements were layered on, it became impossible for us to deliver on that promise.”
Jersey City’s Acting Superintendent of Schools Norma Fernandez told the outlet late last week that she was unaware that the deal with LMC fell through. Overcrowded classrooms in Downtown neighborhoods have become a point of contention, although Mack-Cali’s recently completed Haus25 did add an elementary school annex to the area.
Mayor Fulop has yet to address the situation, but Downtown Councilman James Solomon told the Jersey Journal that he is working on getting a school built on several Marin Boulevard parking lots and the old public safety headquarters between Sixth and Eighth streets.