I captured a shot of the plans for 209-215 Newark Avenue, and some of the lot:
In the Region | New Jersey
The Hanging Tower of Jersey City
Office for Metropolitan Architecture
ARTS DISTRICT, BUILDING BLOCKS This 52-story design by Rem Koolhaas is to house apartments, hotel rooms and artists’ spaces as well as stores, an art gallery and a cabaret.
By ANTOINETTE MARTIN
Published: March 4, 2007
AFTER a wild development saga involving a dozen legal actions and the hiring of a mega-star architect, the design for a new tower to anchor this city’s arts district emerged last week as, well, kind of wild.
The structure designed by Rem Koolhaas is 52 stories tall and holds 1.2 million square feet of mostly residential space. Yet, from most angles, it resembles nothing so much as a small child’s precarious stack of blocks. Looking from Manhattan across the river, the skyscraper presents the startling prospect of a giant barbell, standing on end.
Mr. Koolhaas, the Dutch founder of the internationally known Office for Metropolitan Architecture and a professor of urban studies at Harvard, said he took note of the way bare-boned monoliths dominate Jersey City’s modern architecture — “and played with that.”
The building he designed for a two-acre site at 111 First Street here is born of conflict. Displaced artists, Manhattan developers and Jersey City politicians have mixed it up in court for years over the project’s configuration and scale and the basic question of whether it should replace a historic industrial building where artists once lived and worked.
Mr. Koolhaas seemed to cast that history into oblivion during an interview after the unveiling of his designs — or at least he tried.
“This building was born under a lucky star,” Mr. Koolhaas said after the formal unveiling, held at the Jersey City Museum. “I think everyone who has seen it so far likes it.”
One key issue in the debate over the structure, the proposed centerpiece of the city’s Powerhouse Arts District, has been whether a high-rise is appropriate for the site, since the city had said it intended to create a neighborhood to human scale, with vibrant street life.
Mr. Koolhaas and his associate Shoei Shigematsu, the lead architect for the project, responded by breaking the building into three components — a cube and two rectangular blocks — and stacked them perpendicularly. Terraces and open spaces are created at each structural joint, and slices of the view of Manhattan from existing buildings in the neighborhood are retained.
There is to be a meditation pool at street level, as well as a sculpture garden and sports terrace. Upper terraces are to feature gardens, outdoor dining areas and other amenities. A connection across Washington Street to the historic Powerhouse building, a vacant Victorian-era power plant slated for conversion to an arts center, will be achieved via a pedestrian plaza with sculpture garden.
The First Street tower is envisioned as a “vertical city” by its Manhattan-based builders, the Athena Group and the BLDG Management Company.
The top 25 floors will hold 330 apartments; the 7 floors below that will have 252 hotel rooms. Below these, there will be 40 loft apartments; 120 artist live/work spaces; parking for 719 cars on 6 floors; and a 2-story street-level area for stores, an art gallery and a cabaret, plus the lobbies for the hotel and the condos.
From some angles, as displayed in digital renderings and a scale model by the architects last week, the structure’s profile looks positively svelte — even a trifle fragile, as if it might topple in a stiff wind. “That was my first question,” joked the Jersey City mayor, Jerramiah T. Healy. “Is it going to blow over?”
The president of BLDG Management, Lloyd M. Goldman, whose company owns the site — and who at one point sued the city for stopping demolition of the old tobacco factory there that served as housing for hundreds of artists — declared the new design “utterly sound.”
“We brought in WSP Cantor Seinuk as the structural engineers,” he noted. “They’re the firm that’s doing the Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center.”
A reinforced concrete tube running through its core will anchor the building. Cantilevered concrete beams will support the two upper blocks, whose end sections splay out over the street.
The bottom third of the building will hold the artist spaces and rise 16 floors over the two-story retail area. The midsection, 18 stories tall, will hold the hotel and 10 floors of loft apartments that may be developed as “hotel condos.”
The glass-faced 16-story top section, which will face the Hudson River and Manhattan skyline directly eastward, will be condos.
As with other parts of Jersey City, a total transformation is under way in the area — providing a source of satisfaction for developers, angst for artists who loved the beaten-down warehouse district the way it was, and torn loyalties for city officials committed to revitalization.
At the unveiling of the design for the $400 million project, the mayor chortled over the coup of getting a “cool house for Jersey City,” playing on the architect’s surname, and called it a step forward in a renaissance. Later, he said he needed to correct himself. “This area used to be full of two-family frame houses, factory buildings and hole-in-the-wall bars,” he recollected. “We’re not just seeing a renaissance. We’re building a new city.”
William Matsikoudis, the city’s attorney, said he was thrilled to have wrested a compromise from a crowd of “New York City lawyers” hired by the developers, permitting a high-density structure on the one hand, but on the other a building that resembles a “600-foot-tall sculpture.”
Mr. Matsikoudis said he had handed the developers a list of seven world-class architects last June and told them a deal could be struck over the size of the building if they could lure a “star-chitect” to the project. Mr. Koolhaas accepted the commission in September.
The deal also included a commitment from the developers to donate $1 million to the arts in Jersey City. A first check of $330,000 was turned over to the city art museum two weeks ago.
For Mr. Koolhaas’s firm, based in Rotterdam, the Jersey City structure represents its first large-scale residential project in this country.
Mr. Koolhaas described the project as a welcome chance to produce “serious” architecture in a “real” place, as opposed to “spectacular architecture in unreal places.”
The architect, who won the Pritzker Prize in 2000, has in recent years designed the Prada stores in New York and Los Angeles, the Whitney Museum extension, the Seattle Public Library and the Illinois Institute of Technology campus center in Chicago.
His firm’s largest project to date worldwide is the China Central television headquarters and cultural center, under construction in Beijing.
Mr. Koolhaas said he thought the Jersey City arts district would appeal to “anyone who doesn’t want to live in a manicured environment.”
Asked for his favorite vantage point for viewing the 111 First Street building, Mr. Koolhaas said it would be from the thoroughly unaesthetic New Jersey Turnpike. “From there,” he said, “you see the Jersey City skyline in the foreground, with the Manhattan skyline in the background, and the two seem to meld. This is truly urban, truly beautiful.”
Does anyone know the current status of the Bayside development plan? I've seen the powerpoint presentation available from NJCU and I know NJCU's west campus will start contruction soon. With the construction of westside station, that's really all I see going on. Also, I'd love to know what's up with that huge construction project on rt. 440 by the old playdrome.
JCMAN your article uptop of this page of thread says the city has approved a second Goldman Sachs tower, can you find out for whom? Which tenant is taking it?
Jersey City hopes image will rise with proposed Koolhaas tower
By JANET FRANKSTON LORIN
Associated Press Writer
March 4, 2007, 7:12 PM EST
JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- With its prime location across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan, Jersey City has been drawing new residents and businesses for years with its stunning views of the New York skyline and cheaper rents.
But now New Jersey's second largest city is commanding something more than a quick commute to Manhattan: the cachet of an avant-garde 52-story condominium and hotel tower to anchor an arts district, designed by internationally acclaimed architect Rem Koolhaas.
He announced plans last week for a 1.2 million-square-foot building with an unusual design: three rectangular slabs stacked perpendicular to each other. City officials have called it a 600-foot-tall piece of art.
The new building will replace a brick 130-year-old former tobacco factory, now being demolished. Developers with the Athena Group and BLDG Management Co., both of New York, said its 300 condominium units are expected to have a price range of $500,000 to $1 million.
Like many cities around the world, Jersey City is trying to use architecture to upgrade its image, said Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for the New Yorker magazine.
"Architecture is increasingly one of those bootstraps that cities use to bootstrap themselves up a couple of notches," he said. "It shows that Jersey City has reached a new level and it makes sense to do something like this today."
Robert Ivy, editor-in-chief of the Architectural Record, agreed.
"Developers and cities are realizing that architects have the power to draw attention, international attention, to their location. That was true in Milwaukee, and in Bilbao, and it's going to be true in Jersey City," he said, referring to Santiago Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum and Frank Gehry's design for the Guggenheim Museum in Spain.
In other words, design can change perception, he said. Imaginative or poetic buildings change the entire perceived personality of a city.
"I have no way of knowing whether Koolhaas' building can do that, but really great buildings can do that," he said.
Koolhaas' $400 million building at 111 First St., to be complete in three or four years, will add to Jersey City's emerging real estate portfolio.
The city already has a sleek and elegant new office tower designed by Cesar Pelli for Goldman Sachs, the tallest building in New Jersey. Goldberger described it a 2004 New Yorker magazine critique as "the anchor of a new city, a kind of Shanghai on the Hudson, that has sprung up over the past decade on what was once industrial land."
In addition, the city has approved plans for a second Goldman Sachs tower, designed by famed architect I.M. Pei, but it won't be built until the first tower is filled, said Jersey City's planning director Robert Cotter.
Another established brand in real estate, Donald Trump, has attached his name to two condo towers, expected to sell $1 million apartments.
The Koolhaas tower will put Jersey City on the world map for other reasons, said Hilary Ballon, a professor of architectural history at Columbia University.
"People will want to see a Koolhaas building," she said. "It's not that he's just a famous architect. It's what his work stands for."
The Dutch architect, a winner of the prestigious Pritzker Architectural Prize, has also designed the Prada store in New York, the Casa da Musica concert hall in Porto, Portugal, and the China Central Television Headquarters, under construction in Beijing.
He said in an interview with The Associated Press that he wants the Jersey City building, with its mix of uses, to inspire social interaction, life and energy. In addition to condos and a hotel, it will include artist lofts and studios, gallery and retail space, as well as several levels of public space.
"We are creating something slightly more memorable and slightly more energetic," he said. "What New Jersey lacks is some visible evidence of a new beginning."
That new beginning began creeping across the Hudson two decades ago with the Newport, a 600-acre project by the New York development family LeFrak, which has more of a suburban feel and includes its own PATH stop as well as office space, housing and a shopping mall.
The more urban Koolhaas building wouldn't have been possible 20 years ago, said Michael Beyard, a senior fellow with the Urban Land Institute, a Washington-based think tank that promotes responsible development.
He said the building will raise the value and importance of Jersey City's location.
"As the value is added, as the area becomes more acceptable as a destination for residential, office and retailing, the value of the property continues to rise," he said.
More is likely to follow, Ivy said. He said Koolhaas' name alone will draw attention.
"Let's say the intellectual investment will attract scrutiny and perhaps attract others to join the party," he said.
Cotter, the planning director, said the Pelli building was a crucial piece of the city's waterfront development, but the Koolhaas project is a step beyond, a breakthrough for Jersey City.
"We will now have a building that people will come just to see," he said.
From my understanding Goldman just might occupy it. They haven't named any other tenants. They said they will fill the Goldman Sachs Tower and build the second tower once the current one is full. I personally hope that other comapnies occupy it. I would like Goldman to occupy siginificant space in each one, which it is planning to do. I would like to see other corporations take up residency as well.
JC has so much office space and our vacnay rate keeps dropping. we already have more office space then Downtown Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Miami and once the Second GS Tower is built, Merril Lynch's new one at Exchange Place, and the Harborside Towers are constructed our office space will be impressive for a city of 21sq miles.
Last edited by JCMAN320; March 5th, 2007 at 08:02 PM.
Jersey City lures another world famous architect
Already the planned home of a Rem Koolhaas designed building at 111 First St., Jersey City may also become host to a design by world famous architect I.M. Pei.
Pei, the famed Chinese-born architect who designed the pyramid entrances at the Louvre Museum in Paris, has designed the second Goldman Sachs tower. That building will not go up until the current Goldman Sachs building is full.
"Developers and cities are realizing that architects have the power to draw attention, international attention, to their location. That was true in Milwaukee, and in Bilbao, and it's going to be true in Jersey City,'' said Robert Ivy, editor-in-chief of the Architectural Record, referring to Santiago Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum and Frank Gehry's design for the Guggenheim Museum in Spain.
Pedestrian safety an issue of contention
Monday, March 05, 2007
By COTTON DELO
JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
Though a Jersey Avenue extension is still on the table, a Downtown Jersey City traffic study has not yet determined whether to recommend it.
Passions were high at a public meeting in Jersey City City Hall on Thursday evening to provide updates on the Jersey City Regional Waterfront Access and Downtown Circulation Study - undertaken by the Division of City Planning.
The most contentious of four roadway improvement concepts is a Jersey Avenue extension that would connect Downtown with Phillip Street on the western edge of Liberty State Park.
Several speakers based their opposition on the presence of School 3 and Middle School 4 near Grand Street's intersection with Jersey Avenue - asserting that another busy thoroughfare would create unsafe pedestrian conditions.
"I don't know why we're still studying this," said Board of Education member Suzanne Mack, who noted that the decision to build the school complex - open since January 2006 - at that location had been contingent on pledges from the city that a Jersey Avenue extension wouldn't be built.
Other improvement concepts are flyovers of Center and Merseles streets over Montgomery Street, an extension of Merseles Street south to Wilson Street and a ramp off the New Jersey Turnpike providing access to Newport via 11th Street.
Louis Luglio of Vollmer Associates - a consultant hired to assist with the study - said that a downside of the extension concept is the intersection with the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, since cars would have to stop for train crossings.
Although the majority of attendees were Downtown residents opposed to a Jersey Avenue extension because of potentially increased traffic flow in their neighborhoods, there were some other voices heard.
Chris Bray, 37, said he hopes serious measures will be taken to alleviate traffic near his home on Pacific Avenue in the Bergen-Lafayette neighborhood. In his view, all the project concepts have merit.
"You've got so many people this is going to affect," he said. "It's probably going to upset a few people."
The study's recommendations based on cost, time frame, effect on traffic flow and local impacts of each project will be revealed at a meeting scheduled for April 26.
COTTON DELO can be reached at email@example.com
Thanks for all these great news pieces and your "on the ground" reports. This really is a thread I enjoy checking out. Your passion is contagious. I wish downtwn Brooklyn would see this kind of boom.
Walking along the Hudson River Park this past weekend I noticed many many cranes popping up across the river.
You guys in JC really got it goin' on ...
There was a lot of heavy equipment and machinery at the intersection of Maxwell St and Coles St this morning carrying out what appeared to be some serious demolition work (halfway between Newark Ave and Columbus Dr on Coles). Does anyone know what's going on?
On the side of the street Contiguous with 209-215 newark Avenue?
It's not underway yet. Construction isn't supposed to start until the current Goldman Sachs building is full, which might take a few years.
Yes Timmy is right but it is an impressive looking building so I can't wait for it to get constructed. Jersey City will finally have a building with a spire. I can't wait!!