The days when Journal Square was Jersey City’s commercial hub have long since passed, giving way to three decades of development near the Hudson waterfront.
But if the city’s construction pipeline is any indication, it’s only a matter of time before the private sector breathes new life into the historic neighborhood on the hill.
There are now four redevelopment projects under construction that would add some 900 apartments to the area around the Journal Square PATH station, according to data provided by Jersey City officials. And four other proposals are in various stages of planning, accounting for another 2,000 residential units.
“I think it’s Brooklyn 15 years ago,” said Ken Pasternak, a developer who started to buy portfolios in the borough’s Williamsburg section in the early 2000s. “I see the same kind of energy in Journal Square that I saw in Brooklyn.”
Pasternak’s firm, KABR Group, is now planning to transform the longtime home of the Jersey Journal, the neighborhood’s namesake, after the newspaper moved its headquarters to Secaucus in January. Partnering with Kushner Cos., the firm plans to build a 40-story apartment tower behind the building while preserving its iconic façade.
They are just two of the builders that are banking on the future of Journal Square, which is only 20 minutes from Manhattan via the PATH train. And their interest comes as Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop pushes development beyond the downtown and waterfront areas, in part by sweetening tax abatements for inner-city projects.
It remains to be seen if Journal Square can attract the types of renters who populate the city’s trendy downtown and waterfront areas, but a case study is about to begin. Next month, the neighborhood’s first high-end residential building will open on Newkirk Street, about two blocks south of the PATH station.
Matt Weinreich, the developer of the 56-unit project known as Kennedy Lofts, believes he can reach the same clientele — and he has what he feels is the perfect way to entice them. The eight-story property is a converted office building, resulting in cost savings that allows the owner to offer lower rents than many of the high-rises downtown.
But Weinreich said Kennedy Lofts still has many of the same offerings: high-end finishes in the units and amenities such as a rooftop terrace and a fitness center.
“If we do this project the right way, and our rents are lower than they are on the waterfront, we can incentivize people to stay on the PATH four more minutes and come to Journal Square,” said Weinreich, principal of New York-based Hopkins Group LLC. “That was the concept, and we believe that if we build it in such a way that it’s a high-quality project, then people will come.”
Other developers are watching the trend lines with the belief that, even for ground-up projects, Journal Square will look like an attractive alternative to Manhattan.