THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
August 28, 2010
Jersey City Keeps Busy Re-Inventing Itself
Just across the Hudson River from Manhattan and easily accessible by the PATH train, Jersey City is increasingly a popular destination for those who want to be close to New York City without being immersed in its bustle. Once a heavily industrial area, the area has in the past several years seen a surge in new development and in conversions of former industrial buildings into housing, office, retail and entertainment space.
The short commute, the views and the relatively low prices draw some Manhattan workers. Others both live and work in the area, creating a community dedicated to seeing the city thrive.
Recently built high-rises abound. Some, like Grove Point, a rental building in the downtown area that opened in 2007, found themselves near capacity soon after opening. The Newport area along the waterfront, a mixed-use community with retail, office, entertainment and residential spaces, has several luxury towers, including a 31-story rental building, Aquablu. That building opened last summer and includes 355 apartments. Studios start at $1,800 a month, and three-bedrooms at $3,495. Nearby at the Trump Plaza Residences, a 55-story tower with a 24-hour doorman and full-time concierge, one-bedroom units start at more than $400,000.
For those not interested in modern buildings, there are options in former warehouses, factories and even hospitals. The Art Deco Beacon condominium complex, built in the former Jersey City Medical Building, features a fitness center, pool, screening room and children's playroom. An on-site bar and lounge called Prohibition is also in the works. Studios at the Beacon start at $235,000.
The residences at Dixon Mills, where studios start at more than $200,000, are in a former pencil factory and feature hardwood floors, oversized windows, and high ceilings. Some units also have exposed brick walls and terraces.
More plans for development are in the works. Just this week, the Jersey City Council approved a 244-acre plan to develop the Journal Square area in the city's central business district. Efforts to clean up chromium and other metals left by decades of industrial activity are under way in areas such as Bayfront, Harbor Place and Canal Crossings, in preparation to begin creating mixed-use developments, says Robert Antonicello, executive director of the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency.
Many of the plans for new developments are centered around public-transportation hubs, partly to encourage those who commute to New York City to make Jersey City home, he adds. There are also plans to develop the derelict Powerhouse, which once provided railroad electricity and later was used as a storage site for railroad equipment, into a cultural hub with space for performing arts.
Of course, the plans remain just plans until executed, so many of the developments have a long way to go. Some Jersey City residents still rely on New York night life for their entertainment and say PATH train service can be unreliable, particularly at night and on weekends.
Parks: Liberty State Park has a promenade for walking, jogging and biking, as well as playgrounds and access to fishing, crabbing, boating and kayaking. The park offers not only stunning views of the Manhattan skyline but also ferry service to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Other green spaces include the 270-acre Lincoln Park, which has recreation fields and wetlands. Smaller green spaces include Lafayette Park, Van Vorst Park and Hamilton Park, among others.
Dining: The Grove Street area is the central location for dining, and popular restaurants include Marco & Pepe, which offers brunch, dinner and dessert, and the Merchant, a bar and restaurant housed in an old bank—a vault, now used for storage, is in the main dining room. The diverse ethnic community has contributed a variety of restaurants, including Taqueria Downtown, which offers fresh Mexican food for a low price. Zeppelin Hall Restaurant & Biergarten offers indoor and outdoor seating, and Bar Majestic is in a converted theater. For a sweet treat, try Made with Love Organic Bakery & Café.
Shopping: Kanibal Home is a clothing, accessories and home-décor store that also sells refurbished furniture and vintage dishware. For more accessories and clothing, also try Tia's Place, Another Man's Treasure Vintage Store and Aspasia's Boutique. Stockinette Knitting Café offers coffee and pastries along with knitting materials. Other finds include FJB Comics & Games. Newport Centre, a three-level mall in the Newport Hudson Waterfront Community has department stores like Macy's and Sears, as well as other retailers like American Eagle Outfitters, Brookstone, Fossil and Godiva Chocolatier.
Schools: There are 31 schools for students in kindergarten through 8th grade, as well as six high schools. Of the 1,258 high-school students who graduated in 2009, 776 went on to a two-year or four-year college or university, and they received nearly $8 million in scholarship money, according to the Jersey City Public Schools 2008-09 annual report. Private schools include the Our Lady of Victories School, the Our Lady of Mercy Academy and the Al Ghazaly School. Higher-education options include the New Jersey City University, which offers courses in areas like media arts, business, education and criminal justice, and St. Peter's College, a Jesuit college with undergraduate, graduate and professional programs.