Why Journal Square is important to the City’s future.
December 4, 2023
All roads lead to Journal Square! Always considered the “heart of Jersey City”, Journal Square has had a rich history of serving the entire city and county. The “Square” provides a great opportunity to secure the city’s economic future and create one of the truly great Central Business Districts (CBD) in the country. Beginning in early 2007 and culminating in the summer of 2010, the Journal Square Vision plan came to life. The “Visioning” effort was a true Public Private effort, with local residents, businesspeople, anchor institutions like Hudson County Community College/Saint Peters and city official working together over a three year period to bring the plan into fruition. Adopted by the City Council in June of 2010, the plan was honed by over 30 community meetings, some large and some small, in an effort to get the plan right. The Journal Square Plan, now the 2060 plan, has proved to be a remarkable success for the city’s o CBD. The plan, built around “smart growth” principles, now encompasses approximately 233 acres in the heart of the city. And from the beginning the “2060 Plan” was embraced by the broad array of stakeholders that were deeply involved in the long process. The commitment to the plan can be seen not just in the award winning Journal Squared Towers, but with the wide range of mixed-use towers built or under construction in the Square. The heart of the 2060 plan was always about the smart transit oriented development and transportation network that leads to the Square. The private sector had done it job in the Square, with quickly, sensing the potential of the Square and moving redevelopment forward at an unheard of pace.
The Plan is now in its thirtieth year and is at that point where some of the goals of the original of the plan should be brought back to the forefront. One of those goals that was central to the 2060 plan, was a new transportation center, replacing the 8.85 acre, 1970’s era Journal Square Transportation Center (JSTC). For those old enough to remember when the Transportation Center was built, it was welcomed with mixed emotions. First, it was the first new office tower to be built in the Square in decades. Second, it created a modern transportation center for the PATH and the over 30 bus lines that terminated at the Center. But the new center did create a real challenge for the retail shops that made Journal Square a city wide shopping destination. Slowly the foot traffic on the Square that inspired Benny Goodman’s “Jersey Bounce”, started to be diverted from the street and into the new JSTC. The retail suffered, the nature of the Square changed from a broad CBD economy, to commuter convenience services. To be clear, the development of the 1,200,000 square foot Newport Mall didn’t help Journal Square and other main streets in the city, but the decline of the Square as a CBD was delt a one-two punch with the JSTC and Newport Mall.
But the success of the Journal Square plan has changed the Squares trajectory in dramatic fashion and the Transportation Center is a very big part of this success. By all accounts access to the JSTC is the “cornerstone” of the Square’s renaissance. That being said, the JSTC is over 50 years old and the nature of a modern transportation center has changed over the last 50 years. The Journal Square 2060 plan placed the JSTC at the center of the plan with not just PATH trains and bus service, but the addition of either light rail or Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), enhanced bike parking and ride share services. To be sure, a large undertaking like the planning,
funding and construction of a new JSTC is not done overnight. That process will take years once the planning process is started. But that planning process should be prioritized by local leadership and should include the active participation of residents and business in greater Journal Square. The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey has understood the need to get out in front of the new JSTC issue. In September on 2019 the Port Authority issued a request for information for the redevelopment of the Journal Square Transportation Center, seeking input on the redevelopment and reconfiguration of the JSTC. As we head into another municipal election cycle in 2025, the construction of a new JSTC should be priority issue for the new administration. With the rebirth of the Loews Theater and the Pompidou Centre, as well as the new mixed use towers, the time has come for a serious conversation on a new JSTC as the 2060 plan anticipated. You can’t have a great city, without a great CBD and you can’t have a great CBD without a modern, exciting transportation center. The conversation should start now!