Uptown high-rise to hold charter school. 'Park on Park' garage will close to make way

Uptown high-rise to hold charter school
'Park on Park' garage will close to make way
02/25/2007 Hoboken Reporter
Hoboken's Zoning Board unanimously approved a proposal last week for a 12-story building at 1415 14th St. that will include donated space for one of the city's two charter schools.

In addition to carving out 180 condos, 371 parking spaces, and some retail space, developer Bijou Properties is donating 46,000 square feet in the building for the Elysian Charter School.

The plot of land is currently shared by the Park on Park Garage and an undeveloped dirt lot located on 15th Street between Garden Street and Park Avenue.

That will mean curtains for the 430-car parking garage, in a city that is strapped for parking. Developer Lawrence Bijou said he did not know exactly when the garage will close, but that ground will be broken on the new project within 12 months.

$100M project

The Hoboken-based firm Dean Marchetto Architects has been hired for the $100 million project, which has not yet been named, according to Bijou.

Twenty percent of the condos will be three and four-bedrooms so to provide living space for Hoboken families. Along the base of the building there will be 30,000 square feet of retail space.

After ground is broken on the project, it will take approximately 18 months to complete, according to Bijou.

Bijou is also converting the former Hostess Cupcake Factory on 14th Street and Park Avenue and currently converting the old "Coconut Building" on 14th and Garden streets, which is now called Garden Street Lofts.

The charter school's entrance will be on Garden Street and will open up to a lobby with a staircase and elevator, bringing students to their classrooms located on the second and third floors.

Much support and some opposition

The measure received an overwhelming amount of support from members of the public attending the meeting, many of whose children are enrolled in the Elysian Charter School.

Hoboken has two charter schools, which were founded in the 1990s by parents and meet state mandates in order to get public school funding.

"If it wasn't for Elysian, we couldn't stay in Hoboken," said Grace Leong, a parent of three, last week. Two of her children are enrolled in the school and her third is in a nursery program at All Saints Episcopal Day School. "[Bijou's] decision to donate this area and the board's decision to allow it makes it possible for our children to have their own gym, music room, and community all in one building. It's encouraging to see legislators and developers support local families and education like they did."

Elysian is currently divided between two locations, one at the Rue Building at 301 Garden St. and the other at the former Our Lady of Grace School Building at 422 Willow St.

Although Leong's sentiment was reiterated by several at the Zoning Board meeting, there was some opposition to the project, which required several variances.

Some expressed their concern about schoolchildren crossing the nearby streets, the anticipated increase in traffic caused by new residents, and a greater strain on the already limited parking situation.

In response to the safety issues, both parents and Zoning Board members said that crossing guards would adequately protect children from oncoming traffic, citing the 11th Street crosswalk used by the nearby Wallace Primary School.

Bijou added that there would be a drive-in/drop-off zone for parents to leave their children, as opposed to leaving them on the street.

Both the parking and traffic issues were addressed by the developers who argued, through planning experts, that there would be no significant impact on traffic in the area. They said that many of those who currently use the garage, which has a capacity to fit 430 vehicles and tends to be at 75 percent occupancy, will find other garages located in the area, such as those near the shipyard.

The 'green effect'

In addition to donating space to Elysian Charter, Bijou has also shown consideration for the community by constructing a building that will be the first mixed-use facility in Hoboken, if not the state, to be deemed a LEED Certified Gold-Standard structure for its environmental-friendly design and the sustainable materials being used to construct it.

LEED, which stands for "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design," is an industry standard used to designate properties that are environmentally safe.

Gold is the highest rating, outside of Platinum, that a structure can receive, which is based on the amount of features a building has that lessens the strain on the surrounding environment.

Some of the features of the proposed building are its "green roof," which will retain water that can be used for landscaping; an interior piping system that filters natural air into each unit without having to open a window, and the overall energy-conserving design that will help tenants save on bills and reduce the impact on the city's infrastructure.

"This is a great way to establish a vibrant neighborhood and build a cohesive, urban environment," said Bijou.

There will also be 20,000 square feet of green space dispersed between three gardens along the rooftops of the complex.

The charter school

Conceived in 1995 by a community group called Mile Square Families, the Elysian Charter School first opened its doors in September of 1997, having been one of New Jersey's original 13 charter schools.

The curriculum of the progressive public school focuses on social responsibility.

It receives most of its funding through the Hoboken Board of Education. However, the school has its own Board of Trustees that handles the curriculum and administration.

The public school currently has 280 students with more than 100 on a waiting list, according to Leong. Students are selected through an annual lottery where names are drawn at random, giving children from every socioeconomic class in the district a chance at attending the school.

The school has, on average, higher test scores than the other public elementary schools in the district, according to Elysian's Director Carol Stock.

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