67-story tower to overlook Newport Mall
Proposed for Pep Boys site, would be 2nd largest building in state
FUTURE CONDO SITE – The Metropolitan is planned for construction on the site of the Pep Boys Automotive Supercenter. The other stores at the center will remain.
Reporter staff writer 09/15/2006
A 755-foot residential tower called the "Metropolitan" is being proposed for land just south of the Newport Mall, at the site of where a Pep Boys Automotive store is currently located.
If it gets its city approvals, the structure at Sixth and Washington streets would be the second largest building in New Jersey. The largest building is already in Jersey City: the Goldman Sachs building at 30 Hudson St. stands at 791 feet.
Within a 10-block radius, there are several condo towers either under construction or that have been approved for construction, including: the 55-story Trump Plaza Jersey City on Washington Blvd. and Bay Street; the 33-story Athena on the corner of Washington Boulevard and Second Street; and the proposed San Remo I, San Remo, and Monaco condo towers located off Washington Boulevard behind the Doubletree Hotel.
The Metropolitan, when completed, will have 809 condominium units, 809 parking spaces on seven floors, and 12,445 square feet of retail space.
The tower is one of several that may be built in that 18-acre shopping area currently anchored by a Shop Rite supermarket and BJ's Wholesale Club. But those shopping stores will still remain.
The plans for the Metropolitan were presented to the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency at their August meeting, and will be presented to the Jersey City Planning Board on October 3.
Details behind the Metropolitan
G&S Investors, a real estate investment company based in Port Chester, N.Y., will build the Metropolitan. They have been the owners of the Metro Plaza shopping center since the early 1990s.
The designer of the project is the architectural firm Arquitectonica of Miami. They also designed the Ellipse, a 460-foot residential tower planned for construction in Jersey City's Newport residential area. They also designed the Westin Times Square hotel in New York City.
Tom Lehne, consultant for G&S Investors, said last week the Metropolitan is estimated to cost $180 to $200 million and construction would start next summer, pending all approvals from the city.
Lehne was the former head of the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency in the early 1980s.
Lehne also dispelled rumors regarding the closing of the Shop Rite supermarket, BJ'S Wholesale Club, and Bed, Bath & Beyond stores.
"The other stores have very long-term leases and they are doing great business, especially the Shop Rite," said Lehne. "And it is the wish of [Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy] and the Redevelopment Agency, and I am sure the Planning Department, that the Shop Rite and its parking lot stays intact."
First phase of development at shopping center
Jersey City attorney Francis Schiller, representing the developers, said the Metropolitan project would be the first phase of a larger development project that would span over 20 years, with retail always having a presence in the plaza. Schiller said there will be a meeting with the city's Planning Department to create a master plan specifically for the plaza.
What prompted G&S Investors to look at a residential component? Lehne said the decision was based on them seeing the continuing development in Jersey City.
Schiller said there is no height restriction in the area
, which is governed by the Hudson Exchange Redevelopment Plan. The height of this building, Schiller said, would provide "great view corridors" of the New York Skyline to the east and the Watchung Mountains to the west.
What's inside the Metropolitan?
Lehne said the developers are looking to provide a "first-class signature building."
Instead of housing only condos, Lehne said the developers may decide to provide a mix of condos and rentals. That will be predicated on a marketing study being done by the developers currently to learn how to attract new residents to the Metropolitan.
Lehne added that the developers will contribute their share of affordable housing as required by the city for the its Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
Residential units will conceal the four stories of parking from public view.
The 12,445 square feet of retail space on the ground floor will be divided into three areas. Both Schiller and Lehne agreed that the retail will be "neighborhood friendly boutiques" or small-scale retail since there are already big-box stores.
Councilman likes project but not abatement
Lehne said the developers will seek a tax abatement for the project.
A tax abatement is an agreement to exempt a developer from paying regular fluctuating property taxes. Instead, the developer makes a separate revenue deal to pay money directly to the city over 20 or 30 years. The city gets all the money rather than having to share it with the county and schools.
In the last few years, the agreements have become controversial because some people believe developers don't need the extra incentive to build, and other residents may have to chip in a bigger share of taxes than they should have to.
"The city actually makes a lot of money; it's a revenue producer," argued Lehne. "This site is two, three acres, which will mean millions of dollars going to the city."
Also happy about the Metropolitan but opposed to an abatement being granted is Ward E City Councilman Steven Fulop, who represents most of Downtown Jersey City, including the project site.
"I think it will be a great project, but if they come to seek an abatement, I will vote against it," said Fulop. "I think they can build this project without incentives."