Neighborhood Spotlight: From the Ashes of Industry — the Development of Pavonia / Newport

 

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the 2012 Spring issue of NEW Magazine (Now JCI).

With its gleaming skyscrapers defining much of the Jersey City skyline and its daytime bustle of whitecollar workers, its easy to forget what an accomplishment the Pavonia/Newport area really is.

While Jersey City residents can (and will) continue to debate whether or not the neighborhood is cool, authentic or even a “real” part of Jersey City (debates that have raged since before most of it was even built), it’s undeniable that the transformation of Pavonia/Newport that’s taken place in the past quarter century has been dramatic.

While historic starting points of the current neighborhood can also be debated, 1978 is a good place to begin. That’s when Ohio developer Herb Glimcher first checked out the 60-acre swath of rusted out railroad, abandoned warehouses and decrepit piers that the Erie Lackawanna Railway was selling.

Over the next few years, Glimcher partnered with several other firms, and the project picked up more and more acreage in the process. Eventually, in a June 1986 groundbreaking ceremony, the master plan was unveiled for the development, which was now being spearheaded by the LeFrak Organization, fresh off of building Battery Park City across the Hudson.

In 1987 and 1988, the neighborhood saw the addition of five residential towers, an office tower, the Newport Centre mall, the Marin Boulevard strip mall that now houses Best Buy and A&P, as well as several parking decks and plenty of infrastructure.

The 20-plus years since then have seen dozens more buildings rise on the land, bringing thousands more office workers and residents to the neighborhood each day. The long-awaited pedestrian walkway connecting Newport to Hoboken Terminal opened in late 2009, providing easy access between Pavonia/Newport and Hoboken.

And the neighborhood continues to grow. Ground has been broken on a new 40-story retail/residential building in that most northeastern corner of the neighborhood, across from Target (a park and playground quietly opened there over the winter).

The building, which features two prominent towers and a bulky base, is slated to include 790 residential units, 15,000 square feet of retail and 876 parking spaces.

A prominent new commercial tenant – The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation – will also soon make Pavonia/Newport its home, lured over from Manhattan by nearly $90 million in state and local incentives.

As the neighborhood has grown, it is increasingly becoming less like other cities’ financial districts at night and on the weekends, with entertainment options popping up at several restaurants, and more small businesses opening up in new buildings’ retail space.

WANT TO STAY?

Rents in Pavonia/Newport are still high compared to the rest of Jersey City. You’re paying a premium for quick access to Manhattan and all-inclusive apartment complexes.

According to NewportRentalsNJ.com, prices range from $1,775 for studios (in older buildings like George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams) to $3,875 for three-bedroom, two-bath apartments with balconies in the newer Aquablu building.

Plenty of shares in the neighborhood, as well as the occasional good deal, can be found on Craigslist.

EATING IN PAVONIA/NEWPORT

If you need a bite to eat, you could land in a worse place than Pavonia/Newport. Here are a few highlights.

• AZUCAR: This popular after-work spot is perhaps now best known for having a Cuban sandwich that beat celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s version on an episode of the popular Food Network show Throwdown with Bobby Flay. Chef/owner Nick Vazquez’s menu goes beyond sandwiches, however, to offer a wide variety of Cuban dishes. The restaurant also features solid happy hour drink specials during the week and a cigar menu.
495 Washington Boulevard, azucarcubancuisine.com

• BOCA GRANDE: Along an unassuming frontage of restaurants on Washington, Boca Grande has carved out a niche, bringing the brand of visual arts and live music that’s thriving in other parts of Downtown to Pavonia/Newport. There’s a weekly open mic, rotating art exhibitions, and live music or DJs most weekends. The menus is large and diverse, and the drink specials are a must.
564 Washington Boulevard, bocagrandenj.com

• CONFUCIUS ASIAN BISTRO: If you’re looking for solid Chinese food in a comfortable and spacious setting, this is your spot. The restaurant also offers some Thai-style options, as well as bubble tea.
558 Washington Boulevard, 201 386 8898, confucius558.com

• FIRE & OAK: This self-proclaimed “unique American grill” opened on the ground floor of the new Westin Jersey City Newport hotel in 2009. Run by the same restaurant group behind the neighborhood’s now-defunct South City Grill, Fire & Oak offers everything from steaks to sushi in a upscale yet relaxed environment.
485 Washington Boulevard, fireandoak.com

• KOMEGASHI TOO: Ten years after the 1990 opening on Montgomery Street, Komegashi expanded with a second location – aptly named Komegashi Too – in Pavonia/Newport. The restaurant offers some great views in its waterside dining room, a creative take on modern Japanese food and delicious, fresh sushi.
99 Town Square Place, komegashi.com

• MICHAEL ANTHONY’S: There are a few things about Michael Anthony’s that are worth checking out – the massive yachts you often walk by as you stroll out the pier to the restaurant, the right-on-the-water indoor/outdoor bar area and the accompanying views. And that’s before you even get to the food. The restaurant, which opened in 2009, serves excellent Italian cuisine, and just this year brought on Bryan Gregg as its new executive chef.
502 Washington Boulevard, michaelanthonynj.com (Update 12/13: Closed)

• MORTON WILLIAMS: The small New York metro area grocery chain opened a gleaming new location here in 2008 as the Newport development expanded to the north. The supermarket offers a full range of regular grocery items, but the real draw for many is the store’s large selection of Asian and Indian foods and ingredients.
105 River Drive, mortonwilliams.com

• NEWPORT CENTRE: The Newport Centre mall is probably the first thing that comes to many minds when “Newport” is mentioned as a destination. The three-story shopping center has seen some welcome additions in recent years, including new international dining options in the food court like HD Iskender Grill (Turkish) and Thali (Indian). The addition of Jersey City’s first Jamba Juice location is also a big plus.
30 Mall Drive West, newportcentre.com

Image by Matthew Ward

Jon Whiten

co-founded the Jersey City Independent. He is currently the Deputy Director of New Jersey Policy Perspective.