There was a special Weehawken planning board meeting Tuesday Nov 29, largely centered on the proposed residential complex at 800 Harbor Blvd (3 buildings, approx 600 rental units) and the construction of a new parking deck adjacent to the proposed grocery store. The name of the grocery was not shared at the meeting, but this detailed document (PDF) from Welco Realty indicates “Whole Foods”.
Four members of Hudson Civic Action attended the meeting. Two projects were presented by the developer, Hartz Mountain Industries. The main issues brought up by the Weehawken Township Planning Board members had to do with parking. Hudson Civic Action recorded audio for about an hour and a half of the meeting, which may be heard below via Soundcloud. Apologies for the poor audio!
The next meeting with the same entire group from Hartz Mountain will be December 19th at 7:30 pm, Weehawken Town Hall, 400 Park Avenue.
After the audio recording ended, the Hartz Mountain architect showed the plan for the grocery store and the covered walkway or arcade from the Light Rail through the parking garage to the open-air parking lot on the east. His plan showed it at 15 feet wide, which the board thought not wide enough when it has to accommodate commuter pedestrian traffic, shoppers, shopping carts, and an outdoor dining area extending into it from the grocery store. Also, it is ramped, so anyone wanting to walk straight through would have to both slightly zig-zag and go up and down low ramps. The board sent the architect back to the drawing board on that one. (The architect answered almost every question with, “that’s what the grocery store wanted, so that’s what he drew up for them.”) They will also bring better pictures to show why they think it will work.
Below are two of the images that Hartz Mountain Industries presented. The three buildings behind the Sheraton would be built on the surface parking lot that’s there now. (These, along with the building that’s currently going up at the end of the pier will significantly block views of the river from the Cliffs, but not the skyline).
The other project they’re seeking approval for is in the L shaped yellow. This would be a parking garage and grocery store. If we heard right, the height would not exceed the current parking garage, which is shorter than the UBS buildings.
The grocery store loading dock area looks like it is located where trucks would be coming up and down Harbor Blvd and loading essentially at the open-air parking lot. Community members would like the architect to explain that next time. Many questions about the grocery were never covered because the Planning Board took up a lot of time finding fault with the walkway.
There is a $6 million commitment on the part of Hartz Mountain to develop the adjacent Weehawken recreation area, as well as a $9 million commitment to affordable housing in the three residential buildings. However, no details were presented on this plan.
Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner told the Hartz Mountain representative multiple times times that an easement for a flood wall has already been mapped out by three agencies (DEP, FEMA, and one other), but NOT Army Corps of Engineers, which Hartz kept saying in error while avoiding the question. The flood wall will protect 19th Street and the Shades neighborhood and there is no excuse for Hartz to make that mistake; it has to be in their plan, and be documented correctly. Mayor Turner told Hartz Mountain who to get in touch with on that topic, as well as and to come back next time better prepared, or else!
Questions only (no comments) were called for at the end. One attending member of Hudson Civic Action asked how Hartz Mountain came up with 14+ acres of green space, as mentioned by the first witness. Hartz balked, and a 5-minute recess was called, in which the witness explained to our member personally (but not to the public or the board), that it indeed is made up mostly of paved plaza areas (not really green), rooftop space which is not public but open only to Estuary residents, and the bike path. When the meeting resumed, the Planning Board asked that Hartz fully answer our member’s question at the next meeting.
There was a sense from our membership that throughout the whole meeting that Hartz Mountain was making the proposed development sound as though Weehawken should want this secret great grocery store so badly, that the community should bow down to the grocery’s every request, like Hartz has.
There will be another meeting on this issue December 19th at 7:30 pm, Weehawken Town Hall, 400 Park Avenue.