marketing pitch of Jersey City; no longer was it just proximity to Manhattan, but also the "creative class" aspect of the city, that was driving rampant real estate investment. 111 1st Street fell victim to an environment it had unwittingly helped create, as the building's owner began what tenants usually described as a full-on war against them. Rents were raised, repairs were not made, fires were set, and after a lengthy and contentious political battle, the last artists left in 2005 and the building was torn down. The next fall, so-called "starchitecht" Rem Koolhaas accepted a commission from Goldman and his partners to build a 52-story tower at the site. The plans for the project, which was estimated to cost about $400 million at the time, called for 370 apartments or condos, 252 hotel rooms, 120 artist live/work spaces, a 719-car parking garage that would span six floors, and two levels of retail/ gallery space. But nearly five years since the unveiling of Koolhaas' design at the Jersey City Museum, 111 1st Street remains as fallow as it did in early 2006, littered with overgrown weeds and garbage.
111 1ST STREET AS ALLEGORY The story of 111 1st Street has achieved nearmythical status in Jersey City. It is about far more than a building – in many ways, it is about the entire district. Despite several successful smaller projects and the fact that several dozen working artists do keep studios in the neighborhood, most of the big-time and big-name development in the area has been stalled, as both the economy and the ongoing struggle over neighborhood definition slow the process down. Another landmark case study involves Toll Brothers, the self-described "nation's leading builder of luxury homes," and its plan to build three 30-story towers. The plan, which was first submitted in 2008, was just this fall finally given final site approvals by the city's Planning Board, after being the subject of ongoing legal battles. Toll says it hopes to break ground on the first of three construction phases this coming spring. The area's neighborhood group, the Powerhouse Arts District Neighborhood Association (PADNA), sued the city over the variances to the neighborhood's master plan that it granted Toll. PADNA was
WHILE YOU'RE THERE Despite the overall slow pace of development in the neighborhood, there are some thriving small businesses worth checking out in the PAD. • THE WAREHOUSE: This cafe, on the ground level of the former Leo Cooke Warehouse at 140 Bay Street, has served up coffee, food and an artsy vibe for more than two years. 140 Bay Street thewarehousejc.com • PARLAY STUDIOS: Parlay isn't exactly a business you can frequent every day, but when not being used for photography and film shoots, the company's massive ground-floor warehouse doubles as a host of community art events like the Studio Tour closing party, Steven Gritzan's Record Riot and, most recently, a fundraising concert featuring legendary hip-hop group Dead Prez. 161 2nd Street parlaystudios.com • BIGDRUM ART & FRAMING: The husbandand-wife team behind this framing shop used to run a store in Newport Centre mall, but decamped for the PAD in 2008. 127 1st Street bigdrumart.com • PILATES HAUS: This under-the-radar Pilates studio receives rave reviews from its customers, and offers a children's program, Kinder Haus, as well. 155 2nd Street pilateshaus.com • O'HARA'S DOWNTOWN: Formerly PJ Ryan's, this bar and restaurant sits at the edge of the PAD at 1st Street and Marin Boulevard. 172 1st Street oharasdowntown.com • POWERHOUSE LOUNGE: The newest addition to the PAD's bar/dining scene, the Powerhouse Lounge is a popular happy hour and weekend spot that includes a fantastic neighborhood mural by Thomas John Carlson on its south exterior wall. 360 Marin Boulevard powerhouselounge.com 7
Published on Dec 3, 2011
The Winter 2011 issue of NEW, Jersey City's magazine of arts, culture and lifestyle. Featuring stories on Filipino food & culture in Jersey...