While many public officials have long extolled the potential for Lackawanna Terminal over the years, the revitalization of Hoboken’s major transit hub has been somewhat underwhelming. But one rookie councilman is seeking to jumpstart what he dubs a “European-style market” at the station.
The battle for overhauling the terminal, as well how to develop 36 acres of railyards NJ Transit owns on the city’s southern border, has gotten somewhat contentious over the years. But after much back and forth, the city council eventually passed a redevelopment plan for the area in 2014 that allows 2.2 million square feet of development over the railyards and also included plans to rezone and revitalize the terminal and nearby Warrington Plaza.
Despite the plan being approved by the city council, no significant work has begun on the development or at the terminal. Currently, the largest part of the historic building and plaza remains fenced off to the public, with NJ Transit vehicles parked on its historic cobblestones.
First Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco, who was first elected last November, has proposed a new ordinance that would permit “interim uses” at the terminal’s Warrington Plaza while the redevelopment process at the rail yards continues. DeFusco says that while the council’s 2014 plan called for food kiosks, artist galleries and retail at the facility, NJ Transit cannot currently allow vendors at the property until the pact is fully executed by all sides, as the entire transit hub is currently zoned as industrial waterfront.
Via a press release, DeFusco noted that “on the terminal’s second floor, there’s a sprawling area where artist galleries and a European-style market can flourish; and just outside, a blighted parking lot where food kiosks and green space could naturally coexist.” He added that “having such a grand, centrally located, building sit underutilized as the legalities of the development process carry on is of no benefit to our community.”
The terminal itself, located at Hoboken’s southeastern most point, was constructed in 1907 by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad and got listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. The grandest section of the station is the main waiting room which features stained glass ceilings and a cast-iron double staircase.
Based on its surroundings, a market like the one envisioned by city officials could potentially thrive. NJ Transit estimates about 60,000 commuters pass through Lackawanna Terminal every day and the station has easy access to many forms of mass transit, including train lines, ferries, buses, the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail and the PATH system.
Hoboken’s waterfront surrounding the station also features office buildings that house major companies like Wiley and Pearson Education and just south of the terminal lies the Newport neighborhood, one of Jersey City’s wealthiest neighborhoods.
In regards to the potential Lackawanna market, DeFusco wrote in a Facebook post that the city “can’t force New Jersey Transit to cater to Hoboken consumers and commuters eager to shop locally and spend money in town, but we can absolutely make it easier.” The proposed ordinance is being fleshed out in the council’s southern development subcommittee and will be introduced to the full council later this spring.