Something to chew on Planning Board approves 60-unit development next to popular Italian restaurant

The Casa Dante restaurant on Newark Avenue between Kennedy Boulevard and Summit Avenue has been a local mainstay, serving Italian cuisine for about 35 years.

But now, Casa Dante’s current owners are looking to create more than meals, as they received approval at an Aug. 14 Planning Board meeting to build a residential project next to the current restaurant.

The Jersey City Planning Board approved the plan for Newark Avenue in the Journal Square section of the city.

The plan calls for a 60-unit residential two-tier structure to be built on top of a garage, with 74 valet parking spaces. The garage will be built on the site of what are currently two parking lots alongside the restaurant.

The project calls for two residential buildings fronting both Newark Avenue and Cottage Street. Since the project is being built in two different zones – Neighborhood Commercial (N/C) on Newark Avenue and Office Residential (O/R) on Cottage Street, one building will have a height of five stories (four stories residential and one story garage) and one will be eight stories (seven stories residential and one story garage).

There will be 20 units in the five-story building and 40 units in the eight-story building.

The developers were looking for variances from the usual standards for rear yard size for the N/C and O/R, building coverage in O/R, side yard in O/R, and lot coverage in O/R. The garage will have an entrance at Newark Avenue and exit on Cottage Street with valet parking for restaurant guests and residents.Some dissent

Residents living on Cottage Street, a mainly residential one-way street, took issue at the meeting with traffic coming onto their street. They also feared that cars would take up residential parking on the street. Some also took issue with the eight-story structure that will overlook Cottage Street.

The board approved the project along with the variances, but asked the developers to work further with the residents. More development means more taxpayers

At the meeting, Mayor Jerramiah Healy announced recently that the Planning Board at its July meetings approved projects that are estimated to bring $613 million in future ratables for the city.

“[July] was a sign of things to come for Jersey City,” said Mayor Healy.

There were two major projects that Mayor Healy referred to in his announcement.

One was the AMB Warehouse on Routes 1 & 9, which will contain more than 800,000 square feet of high tech warehouse space (more than 20 acres). The project was approved at the Planning Board’s July 24 meeting.

The project, which also includes 344 parking spaces and 159 loading docks, will be built on property that is being sold by the Archdiocese of Newark. The property was home to The PJP Landfill, where chemical and industrial waste was dumped from about 1968 to 1974.

The other major project was the second phase of 50 Columbus Drive, also approved at the Planning Board meeting on July 24. While the first phase, a 35-story tower, is near completion, the second phase will include two 48-story towers and a hotel.

The project, also known as Columbus Towers, is located on a long stretch of Christopher Columbus Drive between Marin Boulevard and Warren Street, in the Exchange Place area. The site is being developed by PKG Associates, a company operated by local attorney and builder Joseph Panepinto in partnership with Hoboken-based Applied Companies.

Upon completion, 50 Columbus Drive’s three towers will house 942 rental units, a 144-room hotel, 1120 parking spaces, and over 12,000 square feet of ground floor retail.

Healy said, “This is an important time in our city’s future. These projects involve the quality of life for all of our residents, who benefit by increased ratables, new jobs, and new businesses in our City.”

He added, “We are quickly realizing our goal of making Jersey City the preeminent city in the country.” Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at