35-story tower for 110 First St. 452 units to rise across from former artists’ building

The Jersey City Planning Board on Tuesday approved the site plan for a proposed 35-story, 452-unit rental building on First Street in downtown Jersey City.

The building will rise across from the former artists’ lofts at 111 First St., lofts that were eventually torn down after a long battle between the developer and the artists who worked there.

The same developers will now transform the vacant property across the street at 110 First St.

Both properties are owned by BLDG Management, run by New York City billionaire landowner Lloyd Goldman.

Presentations were given by the attorney and architect for the project, as well as the corporation counsel for Jersey City, Bill Matsikoudis. Also in attendance was City Councilman Bill Gaughan, who spoke in favor of the 110 First St. project.

Matskioudis spoke about the settlement that was reached in June 2006 between the city and Goldman. Goldman had filed a $100 million lawsuit against the city for blocking his intended demolition of the then one-million-square-foot 111 First St. building in order to build high-rise housing there.

The settlement resulted in both the 110 and 111 First St. properties being placed in a special zone that skirted around the zoning in the city’s Powerhouse Arts District, which normally would have kept them low rise.

Specifically, the settlement called for the 110 First St. location to have one 40-plus-story tower with 345 units. Instead, the tower is shorter, but the number of units has increased.

Also, the project will have a nine-story parking garage, a landscaped deck and over 13,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor.Modified plan in settlement

Matsikoudis explained that the settlement allows for “a slight modification in the plan,” meaning the increase in the number of units of 110 First St. He said the change was “acceptable” to the city.

In partnership with Goldman will be the New York-based Athena Group. The Athena Group is no stranger to the area, as they are responsible for the 33-story, 250-unit “A” condo building located about 100 feet from the 110 First St. site.

Dan Horgan, attorney for the developer, said construction on the project is scheduled to start soon, but he did not give an exact date. Board and public ask questions

The Planning Board made mixed comments when they voted on the project.

Board commissioner Leon Yost took issue with the design of the building, calling it unimaginative.

He said he wanted the architect, Peter Dewitt, to put 10 more floors into his design.

But city Planning Director Robert Cotter said there’s a height limit for that specific site.

Board commissioner Roseanne Petruzelli asked if there was a dog run in the plans; Dewitt answered that there was not.

Catherine Leonard, a resident of the nearby 140 Bay St. building, aired her concerns about the 110 First St. building bringing more people into the Powerhouse Arts District (PAD), creating a strain on parking and encouraging more single residents to live in the area.

“I know [PAD residents] really want to have families moving in, and having just a majority of studios and one-bedroom apartments doesn’t really encourage families to come into the neighborhood,” Leonard said.

Horgan said that financial concerns led the developers to build more units to make more money.

She also wondered why the project has not been presented to the residents in the neighborhood.

Leonard also took issue with work she said she has seen done on the 110 First St. site already, before the approval. Kenneth Browne of the Athena Group replied that the construction was “test borings,” or digging into the soil to check it for stability before construction commences. This does not require a permit. Sidebar 110 First St.’s affordable housing obligation

When Councilman Bill Gaughan spoke at Tuesday’s Planning Board meeting in favor of the 110 First St. project and the city’s settlement with the owner of the property, it wasn’t just because the settlement saved City Hall from losing an expensive lawsuit.

It turns out the settlement calls for 70 units of affordable housing to be built among 110 First St. and another site.

Twenty-five affordable housing units are designated for 110 First St., but another 45 will be at 1201-1217 Summit Ave., located in the part of the city that Gaughan represents on the City Council.

The entire project consists of the 45 units and 2,332 sq. ft. of retail.

The Summit Avenue project also was presented at Tuesday’s Planning Board meeting and was approved unanimously by the board, who praised the project for its design.

The project will be built by the Franklin Development Group, LLC with $2.5 million in funding from the 110 First St. developers.

According to the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), a state organization that sets guidelines for municipalities to meet their affordable housing obligations, “affordable” rental housing in New Jersey should not cost more than 28 percent of a person’s income. – RK Comments on the story can be sent to rkaulessar@hudsonreporter.com.


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