From near the top of the first Journal Squared residential tower, you almost have to hold your breath. At 563 feet, you feel as if you are on the top of a mountain.
Because of its location atop the highest point in Jersey City, the new structure overlooks even the tallest buildings along the Jersey City waterfront.
For the hundreds of construction workers gathered near the foot of the 53-story tower, the construction has become a symbol of hope for a renewed economy. On Dec. 16 the KRE Group and National Real Estate Advisors announced the topping out of the first phase of Journal Squared, the name for the newly transformed Journal Square neighborhood and intermodal transportation hub.
Scores of public and business leaders joined the development partnership, tradespeople, and others to celebrate what is considered a construction milestone.
“This is all about jobs,” said Patrick Kelleher, president of the Hudson County Building & Constructions Trades union. “All the unions are represented here.”
The development is creating more than 700 jobs in Jersey City, including construction and eventual full-time employment opportunities.
“We’re moving quickly to realize our vision for this game-changing project in Jersey City.” – Jeff Kanne
For local officials, the tower represents a renewal for Journal Square itself, a place that had once been described as “the Jewel of Jersey City” but for decades suffered a slow deterioration.
Kushner knows where his bread is buttered, and so he made a point of buying all the construction workers lunch for the occasion.
A topping-off is one of the three most significant events in the construction of a skyscraper, the middle stage between groundbreaking and ribbon cutting. The topping off is the last stage at which vertical construction concludes and work on the interior starts in earnest.
Kushner said he hopes to hold the ribbon cutting one year to the day from when the building was topped off, a moment at which management then begins to rent the luxury residences to the public.
The 53-story building will offer 538 luxury rental residences at a location adjacent to the Journal Square PATH Station. It is part of the developers’ comprehensive, three-phase project that will also include the construction of a 60-story tower and a 70-story building. When completed, the transformative project will bring 1,838 rental residences, 36,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and a pedestrian-friendly public plaza to the neighborhood.
The first huge step in Journal Square redevelopment
Mayor Steven Fulop said the KRE project is the first significant development in Journal Square since the construction of the PATH station building in the early 1970s.
Fulop, members of the City Council, and other dignitaries rode up the construction elevator, passing floor after floor of what will be the largest luxury rental building away from the waterfront, with workers busy on each floor.
While the officials did not go all the way to the top on this occasion, the view even a few floors below the top was spectacular, a 360-degree unobstructed panoramic view that included New York City and the Jersey City waterfront to the east, the Hackensack River estuary and the Pulaski Skyway to the west, Liberty and Ellis Islands to the south, and the vast spread of Jersey City Heights to the north.
For Jersey City, the tower is also a symbol of expanded wealth beyond the waterfront, the first step towards developing other parts of the city.
Kushner said KRE originally purchased an old bank building – which currently houses Art House Productions – with the aim of knocking it down and building a new building on its footprint.
The building is still slated for eventual demolition, and will become the site of the second of three towers planned for a site bordered by Pavonia, Summit and Magnolia avenues.
But Kushner said the project became a reality due to the hard work of the people involved.
“Without their hard work and their worth ethic, we would not be standing here today,” he said.
Dan Gumble, business manager for I.B.E.W. Local Union 164, said he grew up across the street from where the new tower stands.
He shopped in Journal Square as a kid, went to the movies at the State Theater, the Stanley Theater, and the Loew’s Theater, and played ball on the lawn of the old court house.
“Journal Square was the jewel of Jersey City then, and it will be again,” he said.
Jeff Kenny, of National Realty, said his group was involved in a number of projects, but rarely one as transformative as this.
“The Kushner family put a lot of people to work and paid them responsible wages,” he said. He celebrated the topping off of this tower, and said he looks forward to the next two, and possibly another project after that.
Jeff Kanne, president and CEO of National Real Estate Advisors, said, “We’re moving quickly to realize our vision for this game-changing project in Jersey City, which combines vanguard design, unmatched transportation links, and outstanding public amenities. It offers the best of what inspired urban redevelopment must deliver: a highly attractive city environment, convenient lifestyles, and an anchor for future growth.”
“Jersey City is one of the greatest success stories in the country,” Fulop said. “Jersey City is the economic engine of the state.”
Fulop said Jersey City is proof that government can be economically savvy and still be socially responsible. He pointed to the city’s push for affordable housing that even includes upscale developments along the waterfront.
He credited KRE and others behind this project for willingness to step up and invest in Journal Square.
A significant community element of Journal Squared will be a new public plaza that will be built along the Magnolia Avenue entrance to the PATH station. At the heart of the plaza will be an open space courtyard lined with trees, greenery, and seating to encourage pedestrian activity and social interaction. The plaza will also feature a “kiss-and-ride” cul-de-sac for safe and convenient commuter pick-up and drop-off.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.