Hoboken architect John Nastasi walked residents through the concept for the Neumann Leathers redevelopment project during a virtual community meeting last week.
The new vision for the roughly 3.29 acres of land, bounded by Observer Highway, Newark Street, and Willow Avenue, includes the rehabilitation of the iconic Neumann Leathers building along Observer Highway as well as the smokestack. The land will have a new public open-air courtyard, an interior courtyard, and 310 residential units.
The plan includes 70,000 square feet of rehabilitated industrial arts space, the creation of 76,200 square feet of new commercial and retail properties, 51 units of affordable and workforce housing, an extension of Grand Street to Observer Highway, above and below ground stormwater detention, a 32,500-square-foot outdoor public plaza, and a 9,500-square-foot indoor public plaza.
The outdoor public plaza will be in the center of the property surrounded by six buildings publicly accessed by entrances on all four sides.
It will replace low tertiary buildings which are roughly one story, currently used as storage.
Once removed, the space will be reconfigured into a vibrant public courtyard modeled after open-air European markets with places for dining, shopping, and ground-floor art galleries.
Nastasi said it could also host live music and film screenings.
Under the 32,500-square-foot courtyard will be a stormwater detention system, which will detain 110,000 gallons of stormwater during heavy rain.
Six buildings, topped with green roofs, surround the central courtyard.
Five are envisioned as mixed-use buildings, and one is slated as an industrial arts building.
They vary in size and height, from five to 14 stories.
The southeastern-most building will have a 9,500-square-foot indoor public courtyard topped with a glass ceiling that will also offer dining and retail.
The 310 residential units will primarily be on the southwestern portion, where a parking lot currently sits.
It will be constructed above a two-story parking garage with an entrance and exit along the new Grand Street extension.
It will have spaces for 204 vehicles.
The majority of public speakers approved of the new plan but raised some questions.
Concerns included the possible need for more parking and impacts on traffic congestion.
“When the past administration changed Observer Highway to a single lane in each direction basically … that road is already congested, I can’t imagine what it would be like if Grand was extended,” said resident Michael Klein. “It will back up another street trying to turn onto Observer Highway.”
Others were worried about displacement and the projects phasing.
“My building is slated for reconstruction; do I get relocated somewhere,?” asked Bill Hamilton, a TV producer who operates a studio in one of the buildings. “Will rent stay the same?”
“How are we going to keep the rent affordable for the artists?” asked resident Liz NDoye whose husband has a studio at Neumann Leathers. “I’m concerned for the artists … we are the people that made this city so desirable.”
Resident Joseph Gallo asked if artist housing could be considered, noting he was glad to see affordable and workforce housing included in the plan.
Hoboken’s Director of Community Development noted that a phasing plan will need to be submitted as part of the redevelopment agreement, but generally the idea is to move the existing tenants to vacant space on the property while their building is undergoing renovations.
He noted that the city will work to create a commercial rent control program for the site adding that the redevelopment plan already has language calling for rents to be kept below-market rate for the industrial arts property.
He said the city will need to adopt a workforce housing manual which could be crafted to include artists as a priority.
Planner Jessica Giorgianni noted that the existing traffic study will be updated. The plan had changed since the original traffic study was conducted, adding that the developer will need to submit a transportation demand management plan as part of the redevelopment agreement.