February 3, 2021

FAQ from Mayor Bhalla on Monarch development and proposed settlement agreement

Below are some commonly asked questions and answers provided by Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla and the Office of Community Development, regarding the Monarch development and proposed settlement agreement:

Why is the City continuing to pursue a deal with the Monarch property?

For the past three years of my administration, and years prior to that during the Zimmer administration, the City has been aggressively combatting development on our waterfront. Applied, otherwise known as Ironstate, currently owns the land at the Monarch site and has previously proposed building two 11 story buildings along the North waterfront. I believe we must use all the tools at our disposal to preserve our waterfront for public, open space – not large-scale development.

Didn’t the City Council already adopt a settlement agreement in 2019? What changed?  

Yes – in 2019, the City Council adopted an initial settlement agreement with Ironstate. This agreement provided for the transfer of the Monarch property to the City, in exchange for Ironstate building the City a new municipal garage at 256 Observer Highway, along with development rights for a mostly residential building at the municipal garage site, per the Public Works Garage Redevelopment Plan.

Since then, my administration and City professionals have conducted due diligence to analyze the financials of Ironstate building both a municipal garage and developing a residential building at 256 Observer Highway, as well as the Monarch project. The City and Ironstate were far apart in negotiations and I felt their proposed terms were not in the City’s best interests. As a result, we went back to the drawing board with Ironstate.  Thereafter, we and secured a new agreement which would provide for ownership by the City of the Monarch site and another 1.4 acre property owned by Ironstate and located at 800 Monroe Street.

Ironstate’s prior plans for 800 Monroe Street was a 186 unit residential development.  Instead, upon transfer of this property from Ironstate to the City, the City anticipates developing a public park or other public amenity at this location, rather than another residential building.  This is the main revision in the settlement agreement and I believe these are significantly better terms for the City.  

Is this the settlement agreement the final step in the process?

No. If a settlement agreement were adopted by the City Council, the next step would be the City entering into negotiations with Ironstate to adopt a redevelopment agreement at the Observer Highway site (256 Observer Highway). This redevelopment agreement is required before the 800 Monroe and Monarch properties can be transferred from Ironstate to the City. In addition, an amendment of the Public Works Garage Redevelopment Plan would be undertaken, which would be submitted to the Planning Board for its review.  We anticipate this process, including the City attaining ownership of the Monarch site and 800 Monroe, will occur by the end of the year, provided there are no substantial delays.

The current settlement agreement allows the City to conduct a thorough review of the land it will be obtaining. The settlement agreement adoption will provide the ability for the City to conduct a financial analysis of the appraised value of the Observer Highway site, Monarch site, and 800 Monroe site. Based on the financials, the City and Ironstate would negotiate a redevelopment agreement that would need to be voted on and adopted by the City Council.

In other words, the settlement agreement simply allows the City to begin the redevelopment agreement negotiation phase in the process. It’s an important, but first step with additional approvals to come.

Will the public have additional opportunities to weigh in?

Absolutely. Before any redevelopment agreement is adopted, the City will conduct public meetings and solicit community feedback based on the proposed terms. No redevelopment agreement will be considered or adopted without the ability for residents to participate in a public process.  

What is currently permitted to be built at 800 Monroe?

A 10 story residential building is permitted to be built at 800 Monroe in accordance with the Northwest Redevelopment Plan.

Will there be some type of environmental remediation at the 800 Monroe property?

An environmental consultant and geotechnical engineer are proposed to be retained by the City to conduct environmental and geotechnical review of the 800 Monroe site. This review will inform the City of both the condition of the site and its value, and may be factored into the negotiation of the redevelopment agreement.

Once the City owns 800 Monroe, what will go there?  

While I believe that the best use of the property would be public, open space, my administration is committed to ensuring any public use at a new City-owned property goes through a public planning process that solicits feedback from the community, much like the Northwest Resiliency Park.  

If the settlement agreement is adopted by the City Council, can the City pull back on the parameters of the agreement before a Redevelopment Agreement is adopted?

Yes. If it turns out that after the City conducts its due diligence and there are substantial hurdles, the parties could amend the Redevelopment Agreement, or the City could pull out of the current settlement agreement altogether, after the conclusion of a 90-day due-diligence period.

What is happening downtown at the Observer Highway garage?

Currently, 256 Observer Highway is the site of a Municipal Garage. The Public Works Site Redevelopment Plan, adopted in 2006 and amended in 2008, allows for 264,000 square feet of residential density at the 256 Observer Highway site. The settlement agreement proposes that in exchange for Ironstate’s waiver of development rights on the Monarch property, and the City’s acquisition of acquiring the 800 Monroe and Monarch properties, the City would allow Ironstate to build a mixed-use building at this site, replacing the municipal garage structure, pursuant to a negotiated redevelopment agreement.

What can be built at 256 Observer Highway?

The Public Works Site Redevelopment Plan, as mentioned above allows for 264,000 square feet of residential density at 256 Observer Highway. The settlement agreement proposes keeping this same residential square footage. The total amount of units they could build according to the current settlement agreement would be 331.

In 2019, the settlement agreement adopted by the City Council provided for 4,000 square feet of commercial, retail space at 256 Observer Highway. The revised agreement provides for 15,000 square feet of commercial retail space.

Will the new building at 256 Observer Highway include affordable units?

Yes, affordable units will be provided pursuant to the Redevelopment Plan.

Why transfer the garage to the lot next to the Northwest Resiliency Park?

Currently, the City owns the acre of land at 13th and Jefferson, which is being used as a parking lot. This was determined to be one of the few pieces of land owned by the City where a temporary garage could work in the short term, in order to move forward in adopting a settlement agreement.  

Any potential transfer of the municipal garage to the temporary location at 13th and Jefferson or any other location would not take place until after a redevelopment agreement is adopted by the Council, and reviewed by the planning board. The earliest this could occur would be the fall, and while a City controlled property must be identified as the location for a temporary garage for the purposes of signing a settlement agreement, I remain committed to exploring all potential locations on non-City property for this temporary use.

What will be at the 13th and Jefferson site long-term?

My goal is for the current lot at 13th and Jefferson to be the home of a community center, which could potentially include a municipal pool. My commitment is to include some type of public, community use at this site. Because this piece of land was acquired from BASF, the previous property owner, utilizing funding from the Hoboken Parking Utility, long-term the site must include some type of parking options at whatever gets built. A potential community center or pool could be built on top of or incorporated into a modern, parking garage structure.

Will the City look at alternate locations for the temporary garage?

Yes. My team has been and will continue to explore alternative options, as mentioned above, for a potential site of a temporary municipal garage, potentially in Hoboken’s North End.  

Where will the permanent municipal garage be located?

The City will identify a location for a permanent Municipal Garage in a suitable location in Hoboken’s North End (30 acres of land in the historically industrial northwest area of Hoboken). The permanent garage will not be located at 13th and Jefferson.