By Chris Fry
June 20, 2017
A property near one of Hoboken’s major gateways that dates back to the post-Civil War era looks like it may finally be revitalized, and residents will be given a chance to voice their views on the project at the City Council’s next meeting.
The Neumann Leathers building at 300 Observer Highway is a hulking industrial property that sticks out amidst the redeveloped parcels that surround it. The company that created the facility was formed in 1863, and the oldest four-story section of the complex was built around that time.
The taller and newer portion was constructed in 1919, back when an elevated street car line adorned what is now Observer Highway. The collection of buildings was used for decades to produce and tan leather, but have been home to an artist and light industrial community since the 1980s.
Several schemes have been brought forward to redevelop the property over the years, most recently in the form of a plan for two mixed-use buildings with ground-floor retail, office space and nine stories of high-end condominiums that was pitched by the previous owners. But that idea would have demolished the entire complex, and the City Council had declared the site an “Area in Need of Rehabilitation” in 2014 after an earlier designation was thrown out in court.
After years of public battles, the former owners sold the property in 2014 to four developers for $25 million, and the city passed a plan outlining what they’d like to see at the site in 2015. The latest proposal, released last week, is the current owners’ response to that plan.
Drawn up by Nastasi Architects, the official proposal submitted to the city would restore the existing historic building and leave all existing tenants in place while constructing a 14-story residential component on what is now a surface parking lot on the property’s western end.
Neighbors at 415 Newark Street were concerned about the height of the residential portion for that plan, so Nastasi also drew up four different options that addressed issues locals brought up during a meeting. They all shift the residential portions to more eastern parcels, but parts of the historic complex would need to be demolished under these versions.
Another option, dubbed Residential East, would keep the original building intact and build a separate, 18-story residential building within the commercial/light industrial portion of the property. Yet another possibility, Option C, would split the residential component up into two buildings, with one 11-story structure being built over the existing historic building and a separate 14-story residential mid-rise on the eastern portion of the site.
Every version of the redevelopment would contain a total of 230 living spaces and include workforce and affordable housing units. But the other options besides the first official plan would reduce the amount of public open space that would be built as part of the redevelopment.
Residents interested in the project can see a presentation and voice their views about the choices at the June 21st City Council meeting. Council members will then vote on the plans during their July 5th meeting, after which they may move to amend the Redevelopment Plan and negotiate an agreement to overhaul Neumann Leathers.