The neighborhood behind the Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre in Journal Square would be set for a radical transformation under zoning changes up for final adoption by the City Council tomorrow.
The changes would allow the Harwood family to construct residential high-rises and arts facilities on a roughly 2-acre area the family owns that runs along the PATH tracks. The area is now home now to parking lots and a garage.
The city hopes the changes will lead to the creation of a cultural arts district connecting the neighborhood west of the Loew’s to Journal Square. The Harwoods would be allowed to build taller high-rises than zoning allows in exchange for creating spaces for theaters, art galleries and studios, museums, libraries and more.
The plans also call for improvements to Concourse West, the walkway commonly called the Loew’s alley that offers a direct if narrow connection between the Marion neighborhood and Journal Square. The zoning changes would require developers to incorporate retail space within the concourse and adjacent plaza at the foot of Magnolia Avenue.
The proposed changes to Journal Square zoning come as the area has become a target for real-estate developers. The first high-rise of a three-tower project called Journal Squared is nearly complete, while plans for a two-tower development across the street from the Loew’s were approved by the city in August, as were plans for a 72-story skyscraper on the site of the old Jersey Journal building.
The parking lots and garage targeted by the zoning changes up for approval tomorrow night have been owned by the Harwood family for nearly a century. Brett Harwood said the Journal Square development boom convinced the family to revamp their properties.
“As Journal Square has finally started to come into its own, and you can see the results of that all around, we think that there’s a higher and better use,” Harwood told The Jersey Journal.
The zoning changes would allow for two residential high-rises, one near the foot of Magnolia Avenue and the other near the foot of Pavonia Avenue. The city would allow the developers to exceed the 37-story maximum on each in exchange for the construction of cultural arts facilities in the high-rises and in two additional low-rise buildings. A fifth low-rise building would be allowed to house restaurants, cafes and other retail stores.
The city also envisions an amphitheater, dog run and playgrounds on a site near Van Reipen Avenue.
If approved by the council tomorrow, the zoning changes offer a template to the Harwoods. There are no plans yet, Harwood said, adding that unlimited height restrictions would not lead to soaring skyscrapers.
“Nobody should have expectations that we’re going to build another World Trade Center,” he said. “It wouldn’t be economical, it wouldn’t be appropriate.”
The council meets tomorrow at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 280 Grove St.