Image 1: Hoboken’s turn-of-the-century five-story walkups on Washington St. south of Newark St.
Image 2: The North End Redevelopment Plan: rendering of buildings along 15th Street looking east.
Image 3: New urbanist style townhouses at Liberty Harbor North in Jersey City.
Image 4: Hopkins Plat Map of 1909 for Hoboken blocks north of 11th Street.
FBW | February 9, 2021
Hoboken developed primarily at the turn of the 20th century, thus becoming an historic urban village. With his 1804 plan, Col. John Stevens laid out its first streets and blocks creating a uniform grid. He also laid out the lots on each block, typically 25 feet wide and 100 feet deep. Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s, this plan was faithfully executed and extended to the north and west.
Rows of brick and brownstone buildings were built, as many as 32 per block, lining the front lot lines. These structures were built on a human scale, ranging from three to five stories. The result is an intimate urban neighborhood with a rich architectural heritage.
The goal of the North End Redevelopment Plan should be to replicate that special Hoboken scale and character. The goal should be to create a new neighborhood that is lively and varied. If approved as currently written, it will fail to meet these objectives.
Hoboken’s residential districts have successfully maintained much of that scale and character. Zoning ordinances limit building height, lot coverage, and rear yard setbacks that ensure that new development conforms to the town’s historic standards.
Yet these same standards are not part of the proposed North End Plan. Some buildings face the interior of blocks. Others are situated at odd angles. Lot lines are not delineated, allowing developers to build with massive footprints and blocks to be filled with monolithic structures. The bonus provisions allow for 12-story buildings throughout the 30-acre site. There is no clear delineation between public and private spaces.
To ensure open space in the North End that is truly public, one solution would be to establish a greenway along 15th Street from the Light Rail Station at Madison Street to Cove Park at Park Avenue. This would be similar to the highly regarded Ocean Parkway and Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in the late 1800s. The width of the 15th Street public right-of-way could be expanded by taking a strip of land from the blocks north of 15th. This would allow for generous rows of shade trees along pedestrian pathways and protected bikeways for this six block stretch.