A rendering of the 100-acre Bayfront project on the west side of Jersey City. — Courtesy: Dattner Architects / Synoesis
By Joshua Burd
Officials in Jersey City have unveiled the team that will kick off the 100-acre Bayfront project, a plan that would create the largest mixed-income development in the region.
Mayor Steven Fulop and other officials announced Tuesday that the city has reached an agreement with Bayfront Development Partners LLC, a joint venture of Pennrose LLC and Omni America LLC, and BRP Development Group to begin the project’s first phase. Under the agreement, the firms would build nearly 1,100 units on 16 acres, nearly 35 percent of which will qualify as affordable and workforce housing.
The city said it will formally designate the developers at next week’s Jersey City Redevelopment Agency meeting, which would come four years after it acquired the site from Honeywell Corp. for $100 million. At the time of the acquisition, Fulop and city leaders said they were aiming to increase the on-site affordable housing requirements from 5 percent, as stipulated in the prior Bayfront redevelopment plan, to a new goal of 35 percent.
The deal also gave the city control of prime real estate along the city’s west side.
“I hope with this project Jersey City can demonstrate to the country what type of development is possible when we don’t let the typical boundaries limit us,” Fulop said. “We made a $100 million bet on affordable housing, and it looks like this will pay off huge, both economically for current taxpayers and future residents.”
Fulop and other stakeholders visited the site on Tuesday, noting that Bayfront Development Partners and BRP will pay a combined $26 million to develop the first phase. Plans call for BRP to develop 552 units on two lots, while Pennrose and Omni will be responsible for 540 units.
The BRP portion will include 193 affordable units, with a blend of 28 units each at 30 percent, 40 percent, 50 percent, 60 percent and 80 percent of the area median income, along with 53 units at 120 percent, according to a news release. The Pennrose and Omni segment will include 189 affordable units, all of which will be up to 60 percent AMI.
“We look forward to working collaboratively with local officials and Omni to transform an underutilized site into a vibrant new mixed-use community,” said Jacob Fisher, regional vice president at Pennrose. “Featuring green design, top-notch amenities, and ample outdoor and community spaces, the plans for the Bayfront development will have long-term, positive impacts on the entire neighborhood.”
Stakeholders note that the plan will transform a once-contaminated site along the Hackensack Riverfront into the centerpiece of its planned west side revitalization. The property is just west of Route 440 and across from New Jersey City University’s growing west campus, which already features hundreds of new market-rate apartments and retail space.
In touting the plan, the city touted goals of prioritizing affordable housing, localized hiring opportunities during and after construction and sustainable development.
“None of this would have been possible without the persistent organizing of faith leaders and residents for decades, who fought to clean up the site and then to ensure it would be an inclusive opportunity for the city as a whole,” said the Rev. Laurie Wurm of Jersey City Together, a community organization. “In the midst of several serious crises, we must and will continue to build for a better future in our city and region.”
The city expects to break ground on the infrastructure work for Bayfront in the fall.
“Omni is excited to work with local and state officials and our partners at Pennrose on this transformational project which we feel will be the catalyst for future public private partnerships in Jersey City,” said Eugene Schneur, managing director of Omni. “We expect the Bayfront redevelopment to benefit all members of the community and transform underutilized land into a vibrant and thriving neighborhood.”
City officials said the redevelopment project will also create opportunities for local residents and local businesses, while ensuring that minority- and women-owned businesses are given an opportunity to participate. They noted that BRP is 100 percent minority-owned.
“Developing sustainable, mixed-income communities is vital for success in today’s market,” said Meredith Marshall, the firm’s co-founder and managing partner. “We are looking forward to embarking on a new partnership with the city of Jersey City, the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency and the greater Jersey City community to enhance the quality of life for the city’s residents, as well as continuing to grow our footprint within the Garden State.”
Fulop on Tuesday noted the importance of moving forward with the project, even as the city grapples with the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
“While many municipalities are paralyzed by the pandemic, today’s announcement speaks to the fact that here in Jersey City we continue to proactively work to prepare for a post-pandemic world,” he said.
The city chose the Pennrose, Omni and BRP Development Group based on a competitive request for proposals.
“This has been a thoughtful, collaborative effort involving a lot of moving parts, but we never lost sight of the fact that this is a critical time in the city’s history and so we need to ensure we chose the right partners to carry out these plans for the betterment of the community as a whole,” said Daniel Rivera, a city councilman who also serves as the chair of the JCRA. “This will bring significant housing opportunities to those who need it most.”