LG is in the process of building what it says will be one of the most environmentally sound buildings in the state of New Jersey, but not all of its neighbors are happy about it.
Residents of Englewood Cliffs are taking issue with the building’s proposed height, which, at 143 feet, is significantly taller than the buildings in the surrounding area.
The headquarters will be built along the Palisades, a stretch of green cliffs along the lower Hudson River in northeastern New Jersey and southern New York. The cliffs have been protected from development by builders and homesteaders for more than a century. Though the area’s current zoning laws limit building height to 35 feet, LG obtained a variance in 2012 that essentially cleared the way for construction on the 490,000-square-foot building to begin.
Plans for the headquarters show that the building will incorporate some highly efficient features. 85,000 square feet of solar panels will generate the building’s electricity, while high-tech systems will be put in place to conserve water and reduce carbon emissions. According to LG spokesman John Taylor, it will be the largest LEED Platinum-certified building in New Jersey when it’s completed.
The company also plans to plant more than 700 trees on the 27-acre property, which will actually increase green space by 50%.
LG is also touting the potential economic boost the new building could provide, claiming the project would create 2,000 short-term construction jobs while expanding LG’s workforce from 500 to 1,600 by 2020.
The company’s building plans were approved by the Englewood Cliffs Zoning Board in 2011 and the New Jersey State Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Protection in 2012. Still, it’s met been with plenty of opposition in the last year and a half.
Last June, four former New Jersey governors — Thomas Kean, Christine Todd Whitman, James Florio and Brendan Byrne — wrote a letter to LG’s vice chairman in South Korea, asking for the building’s proposed height to be reduced to meet the current 35-foot limit, according to the New York Times.
In the letter, they wrote that they were “concerned that this tower would not only interrupt the historic, natural vista enjoyed by millions, but would also set a precedent for greater building heights stretching northward along these iconic cliffs, eroding the unique American landmark of the Palisades.”
Preservationist group Protect the Palisades is circulating a petition to preserve the hills’ natural appearance. They’ve come up with renderings of how they imagine the area will look if other buildings of similar height were to be built near the Palisades.
According to LG, there are already several buildings in the area that are just as tall as the company’s future headquarters. They have their own version of how the Palisades will look in the future, with the building in question appearing in the center of the photo.
“We’ve been proud members of the Englewood Cliffs community for 25 years,” Taylor said to Business Insider. “We love the Palisades too. We believe they’re an important part of the fabric of this community.”
Still, many opponents of the plan worry that LG’s building will set a precedent for future construction near the Palisades.
The tension came to a head last week when hundreds of environmentalists, trade union members, and Englewood Cliffs residents gathered in a high school auditorium for a hearing on potential changes to the borough’s master plan. Proposed zoning changes would potentially allow for the construction of more buildings of similar height to LG’s new headquarters.
According to Curbed, the meeting’s atmosphere was incredibly tense, with anti-LG protestors holding signs bearing messages like “Don’t Deface the Palisades” and one even singing “America the Beautiful” before being escorted out.
The Englewood Cliffs Planning Board ended Wednesday’s hearing without a conclusive decision on changes to the zoning laws.
“We’ve listened to concerns and are open to dialogue with the community,” Taylor said. “There’s been a lot of unwillingness on the other side, which is frustrating.”