Massive Toll Brothers development signals failure of Jersey City’s arts district

November 01, 2011 09:10AM

Toll Brothers has obtained final approval for a massive development in Jersey City’s Powerhouse Arts District, a signal that locals’ efforts to keep the neighborhood an artist’s haven have probably failed, according to the Jersey City Independent.

After four years of political wrangling, the plan for three 30-story towers with 950 units is moving forward despite the developers exceeding zoning codes — by four times the height and twice the density, according to opponents — and eschewing affordable housing for cash payments. Toll Brothers’ plan had languished in court for two years as the Powerhouse Arts District Neighborhood Association sued the city for seemingly granting substantial zoning variances on a whim. The appellate court sided with the city and a state supreme court refused to hear the case.

Though the developers bowed to local demands by promising a theater and public plaza, Toll Brothers has the legal right to back out of those obligations if the three residential towers they build prove unsuccessful. And while payments are promised in place of affordable housing, the neighborhood association is worried that the city won’t use the money solely to make the area livable.

But Bob Cotter, the director of city planning, said that if the initial guidelines set for the artist community where adhered to, the area would remain run-down warehouses. There was little potential for profit.

“Every time someone looked at doing a project there, even if they were friends of the arts, they couldn’t bank it,” he said. [Jersey City Independent]