Whole Foods Jersey City: Thoughts from the Editor

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whole foods coming to jersey city
Rendering Credit: Studio V Architecture

This is an opinion piece by the author. Feel free to leave your own views in the comments.

On Wednesday, Whole Foods officially announced their plans to open up shop in Jersey City. Details are a bit scarce. All we really know is that it’s planned somewhere on the Metropolis Towers site and will span 45,000 square feet – quite large for an urban outpost.

It’s certainly about time a legitimate grocer opened up in Jersey City. Mayor Fulop showed his enthusiasm in a statement saying, “Really excited to share positive news that Whole Foods formally announce today they will be opening a Jersey City store. Lots of conversations to get this completed and I think it will be a huge positive for residents and visitors. I said it from the beginning… We aren’t playing around, and we all share the goal of wanting to push forward a stronger city. This store will be located outside the Grove Street Path Station.”

On the surface, this is great news, but from a logistical standpoint, I feel we need a bit more information. From the rendering, the new store looks to be a low-rise, maybe even a one story structure. I would hope, the Planning Board wouldn’t approve another big-box style fiasco in Jersey City after seeing what a failure Metro Plaza has been from a planning standpoint. That would be a step backward.

Further, what’s the parking situation? A surface lot? Let’s hope not.

Has anyone done a traffic study? That corner of Columbus Dr and Marin Blvd is a nightmare at rush hour during most of the day. If you’ve ever experienced the Shoprite parking lot and how it causes traffic to back up on Marin, then I’m frightened to see how Whole Foods would impact traffic. Even more so on the weekends when traffic from the turnpike cuts through Jersey City en route to the Holland Tunnel.

Based on population growth trends and the push of development away from the waterfront, in 2020 when Whole Foods is slated to open, we’ll be looking at a very different city. Personally, I think, barring an economic disaster, by 2020 Journal Square will be the center of the city. Wouldn’t it make more sense to plan the Whole Foods in one of the new towers there which already have giant retail spaces planned and could better accommodate the traffic and parking requirements? Not to mention, easier access for the majority of Jersey City residents.

Also, remember about a year ago when Mayor Fulop proposed, and city council approved, a measure to restrict chain stores downtown? Granted this measure doesn’t apply to national grocers, but to publicly decry one chain then boastfully promote another feels contradictory. What happened to supporting small businesses? You can’t tell me Tender Shoot and all the other small grocers that have provided for the community for years won’t be impacted negatively.

Or what about the Sunac Market opening up literally right across the street? I bet they’re not pleased with the news.

Don’t get me wrong – I love Whole Foods and have dreamt of this announcement. But shouldn’t we prioritize what’s best for the community? Not just what makes the best headline.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. You need to stop looking at Jersey City as a suburb and more of and urban environment. I have lived in JC for 2 years now and don’t own or need a car. A lot of the population moving to JC is coming from Manhattan or Brooklyn so they should be used to the urban environment. There is no parking at the Whole Foods in Tribeca and it seems to be doing just fine. Bottom line is people need to start looking at JC as an extension of NYC, as it grows it will look and feel more like Manhattan as it already has in downtown. So if you want parking, move to Edgewater, Montclair, or Summit….there is plenty of parking at their whole foods.

    • Sal, I completely agree. My argument isn’t pro-parking. I’d love to see no parking at all. But Jersey City culturally isn’t there yet. Everyone drives, everyone expects parking. As of now, the plan claims to include parking, which I think will definitely cause problems on that corner.

      • Fair enough, I agree that the public transportation can definitely be better. I think people should shift the focus from more parking spaces to better public transportation. Btw love Jersey Digs, you guys are doing a great job. Always looking forward to your new articles.

        • I agree with your original comment! If we keep building parking lots people will keep using cars. We need a more extensive PATH or light-rail system and better bike lanes so people don’t need cars. The option with the lowest barrier to entry is painting bike lanes – I’m not sure why it is taking JC so long to implement good bike lanes. I bike from Bergen hill to the PATH every day and the biking is not what I’d consider safe. Either way I’m excited there will be a wholefoods in JC (parking or not)!

    • I think if Jersey City wants to be seen as more of an urban environment, they wouldn’t put/build Whole Foods in a low rise building. That aspect of the design surprised me, as it’s prime downtown real estate. Also – I’ve lived in JC for 5 years (downtown) and feel I need a car. Public transportation within JC and northern NJ is just not reliable enough for me.

  2. A friend who lives/owns in the towers told me the proposal is that WF will build two levels of a parking garage, so that residents keep their spaces (that will be in one level of the garage) and the shoppers will get the other level to park in.
    The fact of the matter is, though, that while you don’t have a car, I don’t have a car, and a lot of people don’t have cars, there are still a bunch of people who DO. For one, many of the residents of the towers are drivers.
    Bikes are great, but if you’ve actually biked in JC, you’d know how precarious it is, with drivers oblivious to cyclists, and bike lanes constantly used as parking spaces.

    It’s still a fact that a lot of people drive, whether they are just cutting through our streets to and from the tunnel, or live here and use the car to commute to work, or just for errands. There is crazy traffic along Marin and Columbus because of the tunnel. I don’t see that changing in four years.
    Comparing JC to Manhattan doesn’t really work – there’s way better transit coverage in Manhattan, and multiple Whole Foods Markets and other grocers. Residents in Manhattan don’t have to drive to a WF or decent grocer – there’s one every neighborhood, near a subway and/or bus. In JC, there’s tons of residents who do not live directly on the PATH (or lightrail, but who wants to carry groceries to the lightrail from Marin/Columbus anyway). Just look at all the people waiting for jitney busses with their grocery bags by the ShopRite on any given day.
    Honestly, I don’t know what’s best for WF’s bottom line and/or JC, but I tend to believe this would’ve been better placed near the JSQ PATH station, where tunnel traffic would be less of an issue, and it would be easier to access by more JC residents (ie easier for someone in the Heights or Greenville to drive to than to have to drive on congested downtown streets, for one).

    PS. Whole Foods in Tribeca may not have a parking garage of their own, but they offer validated parking with purchase at the Central Parking Garage on Greenwich St…just saying…

  3. There needs to be parking for residents of The Heights (and other areas) that do not have direct public transportation.

    I’d be glad to go the Whole Foods on the Light Rail, if that was as (or more) convenient as driving. Until there is Light Rail access in The Heights (not just “close” to it) then there is a reason for parking if you want to provide access to all.

    Let’s push for a Heights Light Rail. I’d love to not have to drive to downtown.

  4. Sorry, but journal square will not be the place to be in Jersey City until 2030 or later. You lose the entire urban-like feel there that downtown JC and Hoboken possess, similar to Brooklyn or at least getting there.

  5. Can’t be worse urban planning than an eight-block low-income housing project surrounded by a gate smack in the middle of downtownand a MALL dumped next to it. Hopefully we can start talking about getting rid of the mall in the future after the Metro Plaza project is done and Shoprite, BBB and BJs are finally gone. Once those two stores are gone, traffic may improve a tiny bit as people stop coming from other areas to do their shopping. If the mall was shuttered and demolished one day, there will be a massive change in traffic patterns as well. Back to the point of Metropolis Towers itself, talk about another unbelievable poor use of urban space. They look better suited to a poor suburb than downtown Jersey City, with a huge fenced surface lot to boot I am actually shocked they have survived so long and would imagine the whole thing is a candidate for redevelopment – buy a low-rise Whole Foods is just a bizarre decision.

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