Amended North End Redeveloper Agreement Approved By Hoboken Council

The Hoboken City Council Wednesday night, by a vote of 7-1-1 with Council Vice President Jen Giattino absent and 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher dissenting, approved a North End Redevelopment agreement, with developer Bijou Properties designated as the redeveloper for the 1500 Clinton Street project.  It only designates Bijou as the company which will do the redevelopment.  No construction or design concepts were finalized.

The project would likely include a new Public Works Garage.  Prior to the Council’s Wednesday vote, Mayor Ravi Bhalla sent Council members a letter describing the agreement and urged the Council to approve the changes.  Bhalla stated, “I write to ask for your support tonight on an important vote before the City Council that will allow the Monarch settlement, which includes the transfer of both waterfront Monarch, and the 8th and Monroe properties to the City, to clear an important hurdle.

I first thank you for your initial support for the Monarch settlement that was approved in February 2021 which set the framework for the acquisition of both properties, as well as the addition of 15,000 square feet of commercial space at the site of the current municipal garage on Observer Highway. As you know, as a part of this settlement, the City would be obligated to move the municipal garage to another area of the City.

Following the adoption of this settlement, and after meeting with various constituencies, my administration pledged to explore locations in the North End for the permanent location of the municipal garage, a commitment I made with Councilman Phil Cohen to residents of the 5th Ward. This was a position that was, at the time, widely supported by the City Council. In fact, the City Council adopted and voted in favor of a resolution urging my administration to do just that. Fortunately, after several weeks of diligently exploring options, we came to understand that Bijou Properties is willing to build the municipal garage on its property in the North End if terms were agreed to in a redevelopment agreement.

To be clear, it is not as simple as picking a location, and convincing a property owner to incorporate a municipal garage on their property. Understandably, not all property owners want a municipal garage incorporated into their future development. After weeks of due diligence, my administration determined the only property owner we know of, willing to build a garage on our timeline and engage on the topic was Bijou Properties.

Not only is the developer willing to engage, but it is also a developer the City has had a track record of working in good faith with on different projects, including the recent collaboration to temporarily facilitate COVID-19 testing to Riverside Medical Group on this very property. Furthermore, this property is, in my opinion, an ideal location for a municipal garage, located in an area without any directly adjacent residential properties, and next to a sewerage authority.

Should the City finalize an agreement with Bijou Properties to relocate the garage, it removes one major hurdle to moving forward with a redevelopment agreement at the current municipal garage site, which would effectuate the transfer of both the waterfront Monarch Properties and the land at 8th and Monroe to the City. And it would fulfill the promise we all made to ensure no municipal garage is built in the middle of a residential neighborhood, an important point I’ve again heard from many residents of Northwest Hoboken over the past week.

These facts all withstanding, what is on the agenda at tonight’s meeting is simply an agreement to designate Bijou Properties the conditional redeveloper of the property they already own, to move forward with official negotiations with the City to build the municipal garage in their North End property. There is no building structure, garage or anything else being finalized with the vote that is on the agenda tonight – it is only to designate Bijou Properties as the conditional redeveloper.”

Councilwoman Fisher, the lone no vote, stated, “…between what is in the NW plan now – 300,000+ SF of residential and commercial development with a park – and what the mayor is proposing – 600,000+ SF of residential development, no park and the City paying for the Garage.  Somewhere in between these two options is a better deal for Hoboken.  One that potentially preserves the linear park.  Preserves commercial uses.  Keeps residential more manageable.  And pays for the DPW garage.

The mayor either doesn’t seem to know this, or doesn’t seem to care.
And, as I have said before, there are many other alternatives with greater certainty of delivery of having a site for the garage by 9/22.  Building a 700,000SF building is not one of them.
Mayor Bhalla gave these comments in an HMAG article in 2019 – just replace Academy with Bijou, Southwest with Northwest and 2021 …
Unfortunately, [Academy] has demanded a development deal inconsistent with the city’s Master Plan and the [Southwest] Redevelopment Plan unanimously passed by the City Council in [2017],” Bhalla,said in 2019. “The overdevelopment demanded by Academy would massively increase residential density and badly exacerbate the already unacceptable traffic problems in the area.”
This building will create the biggest traffic nightmare in the area, on its own, and the impact it will have for all other development in the area.
Real estate is permanent.  Once built you can’t undo it.  And this mayor is giving no thought to this.  Hoboken deserves so much better. I can’t tell you how incredibly upsetting this is to me.”
The Mayor added prior to the vote, “As you likely know, one result of building the municipal garage on 16th and Clinton on the property owned by Bijou Properties within the North End Redevelopment Plan, is the elimination of one portion spanning the length of one block of the linear park that is called for in the North End Redevelopment Plan. However, my view of acquiring 1.4 acres of public land at 8th and Monroe for a new park as a land swap in the Monarch Project, as well as preserving our uptown waterfront, substantially outweighs the downside of losing one portion of a linear park that hasn’t even been built yet.

Nonetheless, I understand that there has been recent objection to this basic procedural vote, with the hope that a better option exists in the North End to host a municipal garage. To my knowledge, no one has approached the City with this offer, or identified a suitable location that would work on the City’s time frame.”