Earlier this year, the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency was awarded a $100,000 "smart growth" grant to develop a comprehensive plan for Journal Square as an entertainment and retail hub.
The city has advertised on its website and in local newspapers for Journal Square residents and area property owners to be involved in the design process, making such proclamations as, "Wanted: 300 City Planners."
At Monday's meeting, both Robert Antonicello, the executive director of the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency, and Robert Cotter, the director of the city's Planning Division, spoke on a redevelopment plan for Journal Square.
Among the marquee projects expected to be in the redevelopment plan is a private developer's already proposed $400 million, two-tower mixed use development next to the Journal Square Transportation Center.
The comprehensive plan for the area is being designed by A. Nelessen Associates, a Princeton-based urban planning firm, and Dean Marchetto, a Hoboken-based architect and urban designer. It will cover an area from Vroom Street to the south, Tonnelle Avenue to the west, State Highway 139 to the north and Palisade Avenue to the east.
Monday's meeting, held in the basement of St. Joseph's Church on Baldwin Avenue, is one of several that have taken place since July on the plan.
In fact, the city is planning another community meeting in the next two weeks (at a date not yet determined) in which they will look back at the results of the previous meeting. The next meeting is to be called, "Did We Get It Right?"
One of the people happy to see the meeting take place was City Councilman Steve Lipski, who represents Journal Square on the City Council. But he also wants to see speedy results.
"We need to get into production, not into pandering, because people in the Journal Square area want to see this [start happening]," Lipski said.'Scout's honor'
Rich Boggiano, the president of the Hilltop Neighborhood Association, whose members live in the Journal Square area, opened the meeting by warning that if city planners and others involved in the redevelopment plan put in details that could have an immense impact on Journal Square, then the residents "want something back" in terms of better city services and improved infrastructure.
Cotter discussed the history of Journal Square as a creation of the city fathers in the early 1920s as a new "city center." He said it stayed that way until the 1970s, when businesses left the area and foot traffic diminished on the Square.
Cotter also said that the first step in the redevelopment of the Journal Square is the City Council declaring the Journal Square area "in need of rehabilitation" by the end of the year. This would mean the city would encourage property owners to revitalize their land and develop vacant lots.
A woman in the audience shouted out a question about whether the redevelopment plans will include eminent domain, or the forcible taking of property.
Cotter promised it wouldn't happen, exclaiming, "Absolutely; scout's honor."
But later in the evening, both Antonicello and Cotter admitted that it actually could happen. Plans were mentioned to bring single-track trolleys to Journal Square to cut down on cars parking in the area, which would require the widening of streets and the possible taking of property.
Other people asked whether building heights will be limited, particularly with the proposed 60-story buildings near the transit center.
Boggiano also brought up the issue of a proposed parking lot that may be built on Newark Avenue for as many as 4,500 cars, which has been discussed by the county and city. The lot would be built across the street from the Hudson County Administration Building. Boggiano said he would be opposed to such a lot. Comments on this story can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org