IDEA TO BUILD ON
Sale of 'development rights' a win-win, Jersey City says
Monday, September 22, 2008
By KEN THORBOURNE
JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
Jersey City is exploring a unique vehicle to generate more money for historic preservation and other projects by making developers pay if they want to build bigger buildings.
A $50,000 grant from the state Office of Smart Growth will fund the study of "transfer of development rights," officials recently announced.
So far only used in the state to preserve farmland in Burlington County, transfer of development rights enables one property owner to sell unused development space to another owner.
For example, city officials could sell development rights based on the fact that City Hall on Grove Street is smaller than surrounding buildings. It is the same with the Powerhouse building, which the city is in the process of acquiring from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and wants to turn into the entertainment and retail center of an arts district.
Money generated from those sales could pay to renovate City Hall, and stabilize the crumbling Powerhouse, officials said.
"We don't have enough money to do everything we want to do," said city Planning Director Robert Cotter. "Plus, we have the market to actually sell development rights. If we do it, they will sell."
City officials said they are using San Francisco as a model, where the sale of development rights is used primarily to rehabilitate and restore historic structures.
This study should take a year and would involve the designation of "sending" and "receiving" zones, officials said.
"We made the (grant) category available and reached out to various urban centers, however, Jersey City was the only one that took the initiative in this case and we highly commend them for it," said state Department of Community Affairs spokesman Chris Donnelly.
James McCann, a prominent real estate attorney in the city, called the idea "potentially positive."
"I think it is another vehicle to use as an economic tool for the city to achieve some of its goals for historic preservation, and private developers can benefit from the additional density," McCann said.
Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy founder John Gomez, who writes a weekly column for The Jersey Journal, believes the idea could be a boon for preservationists. "But the city would need to make sure the money goes into the restoration of the resource and not into the coffers of the person selling the transfer rights," Gomez said.