A Tale Of Two Visions For A Waterfront

Activists in Jersey City are suing over plans to replace a fledgling waterfront arts district with new high-rises. The city says the land, which is next to commuter and light rail stations, is best used for "smart growth" high-density housing.

"Across the street from the hulking remains of the Hudson & Manhattan Powerhouse, which once provided electricity for what is now the PATH rail system, is a mountain of bricks and rubble in the middle of a sprawling vacant lot.

Once it was the site of the Lorillard Tobacco and Snuff Manufactory, the largest tobacco factory in the country. Later it was a thoroughly magical warren for hundreds of artists, and the inspiration for an arts district envisioned as a way to revive a decrepit, forgotten warehouse district near the Jersey City waterfront. Current plans call for it to become a 52-story residential tower designed to look like a precarious stack of blocks.

Whether or not you care to see Jersey City as New York's sixth borough, you could write a pretty interesting urban history centered on the 12 or so blocks now designated as its Powerhouse Arts District. But before you did, you would have to sort through two distinct story lines about how the tale has evolved.

One is a story of betrayal, how almost two decades of hard work and advocacy that produced a visionary plan for a low-rise arts district that preserved the area's past was shunted aside in favor of plans for megatowers and cookie-cutter urban development. The second is a story about the malleability of urban life, how neighborhoods always evolve and how no planning document can ever be exempt from the vagaries of market forces and social trends."

Full Story: Adjusting Vision of Waterfront Arts District to Include High Rises



New Urbanism In Jersey City

Jersey City has some beautiful old neighborhoods that are now run down.

It has some big ugly highrises with blank walls facing the sidewalk.

It also has a major New Urbanist neighborhood under construction, Liberty Harbor, which is dense but mid-rise and is pedestrian friendly.

This neighborhood is proof that high-rises are not the only form of smart growth, despite the claims of the Jersey City redevelopment agency.

It is possible to design more pedestrian-friendly highrises than the ones that already exist in Jersey city, but since the article talks about "a 52-story residential tower designed to look like a precarious stack of blocks," it seems that they are going for an avant-gardist design that will be self-consciously hip but will be even less pedestrian-friendly than the existing highrises.

I hope the new residents who move into Liberty Harbor join with the existing residents to stop this plan to bring architectural vertigo to Jersey City.

Charles Siegel

Terminally Hip

I just looked it up, but I should have known: the architect is Rem Koolhaas, and the design is definitely terminally hip, as you can see at http://ny.therealdeal.com/articles/in-jersey-city-arts-district-koolhaas...

Just the sort of appealing neighborhood that I would love to live in. I don't care if it is sterile and inhuman, as long as it is a clever sculptural object.

Charles Siegel

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