Closings, Vacancies Highlight Growing Pains Along Jersey City’s Pedestrian Plaza

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Downtown Jersey City Entertainment Licenses Ordiance
Newark Avenue Pedestrian Mall. Photo by Chris Fry/Jersey Digs.

Newark Avenue is arguably the most significant retail corridor in Jersey City, but a rash of business closures and construction delays on a Downtown revitalization project have created some alarm after years of massive growth along the street.

The latest casualty of what has become too common a story of late is the closing of LITM, a bar that pre-dates the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza. Per the Jersey Journal, owner Jelynne Morse sold the business after running it for 17 years.


Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza Litm Closed Jersey City
LITM, a Downtown Jersey City destination for 17 years, has closed. Photo by Chris Fry/Jersey Digs.

The car-free stretch of Newark Avenue has been hit particularly hard in the last few months, as Pasta e Vino, Sawadee, and Downtown Hardware have all shuttered for various reasons. Another high-profile restaurant just a block from the plaza, Talde, closed last summer.

Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza Pasta Vino Closed Jersey City
Pasta e Vino, Jersey City, has closed. Photo by Chris Fry/Jersey Digs.
Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza Sawadee Closed Jersey City
Sawadee, Jersey City, has closed. Photo by Chris Fry/Jersey Digs.
Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza Downtown Hardware Closed Jersey City
Downtown Hardware, Jersey City, has closed. Photo by Chris Fry/Jersey Digs.

While other spots along Newark Avenue like FM have also closed their doors, the appearance of an exodus along the pedestrian plaza is notable considering how prominent that portion of the street has become. Jersey City is set to spend $4 million to overhaul the two-block portion in a variety of ways, the most major of which involves raising the roadway and installing granite paver plaza surfacing.


Other features of the project include the installation of a trench drain system, green infrastructure such as rain garden tree planters, and illuminated bench seating. Officials have repeatedly stated that construction on the plaza would begin in December but halfway through February, no work has taken place.

Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza Redesign Jersey City
Planned upgrades to the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza in Downtown Jersey City. Rendering by Maser Consulting.

Jersey Digs has reached out to both the Mayor’s office and the Historic Downtown Special Improvement District about the lack of activity, but neither has responded to our inquiries as to when work on the project might formally begin.

Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza Beauty Land Closed Jersey City
Another shuttered business along the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza in Downtown Jersey City. Photo by Chris Fry/Jersey Digs.

Construction delays aside, the burning question of what could be causing businesses to close is a complicated one. While all circumstances vary, a 1% payroll tax that was enacted on every company in Jersey City last year could be having an impact, as the law applies to small businesses as well as large corporations.

Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza Closed Jersey City
More shuttered businesses along the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza in Downtown Jersey City. Photo by Chris Fry/Jersey Digs.

Closures along the eastern portion of Newark Avenue could also be attributed to a city-wide property revaluation that kicked in during 2018, as Downtown homeowners were hit particularly hard in terms of property tax increases. It’s plausible that some landlords might have passed those costs along to retail tenants in terms of higher rents and a flurry of restaurants like Café Peanut, Ling Long Xuan, and Freetown Road opening along Newark Avenue’s less expensive western portion over the last year certainly adds legitimacy to that point.

While the Downtown situation might seem dire to some, there are several businesses that look forward to opening along Newark Avenue in 2020. Bang Cookies, Milk and Cream Cereal Bar, and Asbury Ale House are all slated to make their debuts this year, one that could see major changes along the prominent road.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. the bubble will burst soon. these are the early signs of it. ironic that before the pedestrian plaza, many of the stores there were open for decades without problems. JC is too pricey. and yet, the city wants to pour money into updating the plaza but has problems funding it’s schools. priorities.

  2. Fulop’s administration will do what it has done in the past and knock down the old buildings and let developers put up 50 story luxury condo or rental building.

  3. Looking at the list of closings (hardware, shoes, beds, beauty supplies) it does look a lot like a direct effect of gentrification, higher rents. This means more bars and restaurants, less services. It’s Brownstone Brooklyn (Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights) all over again, only faster.

  4. Bring some more stable restaurants / popular chains as the current selection of some noname/unique overpriced restaurants can only hold popularity for so long till people are bored and restaurant has to close. Stable food/beverage chains will always have customers as the population living here will order in for regular nights. Hoboken Washinton street does well with the variety of availble options.

  5. City government allows developers to erect skyscrapers everywhere, which drove up property prices and rent. Now people have to pay higher rent, higher property tax, and ever rising living cost of just about everything, including dining out. By the way developers get 20yr 25yr tax abatement.

  6. The entire pedestrian area has a generally run down and aged vibe to it. This isn’t surprising to see. With how close this is to the PATH and other major transit hubs, tear it down and rebuild from the ground up into something beautiful and modern, like along the waterfront.

  7. Can’t help but ask again. affordable housing for the hard working people of JC..1 bedrooms apartments are extremely over priced. older couples need affordable apartments..Stop trying to be NYC

  8. 3 to 5 years I see the old JC like it was in the 90s. Look at what it’s coming to already “abandoned closed stores” “shooting” “robbery” the thing is, it’s not a city it’s a Island that’s fucked if they keep building like nycZ look at the Marriot and the cracks in the foundation on exchange place. Watch, all hell will break loose one day and the path smells like fuckin armpit I’m the summer. Glad I moved out!

  9. Newark Ave was an overly-ambitious, poorly-thought-out project in the first place. Closing it to vehicular traffic was the first wound of multiple stabbings.
    First off, the restaurant business itself is seeing hard times, with the cost of food itself being restrictive to restaurateurs. Second, government involvement in demanding employers pay waitstaff what government deems appropriate was another cut to their margins. Jersey City “government” has never met a tax they didn’t like, and have decided that taxing the downtown area…with the restaurants on the first floor….was a great way of raising much-needed government revenue. However, restaurants could only raise their prices so much to pay their new rents each time the taxes went up. Just how much can one charge for a hamburger?
    But, even more so, the closing of Newark Ave has cause a horrendous traffic issue just about throughout the entire Downtown area, making going into the area a major inconvenience in itself, especially on the weekends.
    Compounding this is the influx of homeless and panhandlers during the morning and evening rush hour, to and from the PATH train.
    The results are what we see in the pictures above.

  10. Here is the real problem: PARKING The walk-by traffic is just not enough to sustain so many restaurants, and people coming in from surrounding areas are completely turned off by the general lack of affordable parking in JC. (And the parking options in the Newark Ave area are particularly sparse…)

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