2 Fourteenth Street, Hoboken, NJ
1,100 Rental Residences | 100,000 Sq. Ft. of Retail
Date of Purchase : December 30, 1991
Development Completed : Still Ongoing
The Shipyard Project is a 40-acre tract of land and water, located adjacent to the Hudson River on Hoboken’s northern waterfront. The site originally housed the W & A Fletcher Company, and later the Bethlehem Steel shipyard operations called it home for more than 100 years. It closed in 1982, when the company could no longer compete in construction and repair bids. The Shipyard was dead, and the site remained empty until we launched the Shipyard Project.
Brasswell, a group that operated a shipyard in South Carolina, decided that it could operate the Hoboken Shipyard as a minor repair facility. They failed within a few years, and went bankrupt in 1986. A bankruptcy sale was scheduled.
Despite never having built a real estate project, Anthony Dell’Aquila, owner of the “Standard Brands” Building (now the Hudson Tea Building) and backed by boutique Wall Street bond firm Mabon Nugent, overbid everyone by millions and paid the outrageous price of $16 million. Within a year his companies were bankrupt. This meant that Mabon Nugent was also embroiled in the Dell’Aquila bankruptcy, and the original $16 million loan was now approaching $20M with interest. With no other choice, the property was put on the market, accompanied by two gigantic books of environmental studies that detailed the status and cleanup requirements of the site.
In the early 1990s, my company discussed a purchase with Mabon Nugent. After more than six months of negotiation, we were invited to make a presentation, and a few months later our contract for $4 million was accepted. However, following further negotiations, the purchase price was reduced to $1,350,000 in December 1991, when we agreed to take all environmental risks. The deal was finalized December 30, 1991.
Joe Cicala, then chief development officer of Applied, and I lobbied the city to designate the entire shipyard as a Planned Unit Development (PUD), which allowed us to arrange the park, commercial, residential and retail areas as we thought best. It included our portion of the waterfront walkway as designated by the city, an approximately 16-feet-wide paved promenade with railings and setbacks along the water. I also agreed to rehabilitate a few piers, particularly the 14th Street pier, as a park, and the 13th Street Pier as a ferry stop (since moved to 14th Street). One of the centerpieces of the new project was a badly needed supermarket that Hoboken was lacking. We also created a “central” public park overlooking the River and a small marina.
“I met with George Crimmins and Mayor Russo regarding the route of the light rail in Hoboken. I think I convinced them not to put it right on the waterfront.”
February 17, 1995
But getting approval for our plan was not smooth sailing. Ron Hine, Chairman of the “Committee for a Better Waterfront,” opposed all waterfront developments. Funded by the Dodge Foundation, Hine joined the litigation against the Shipyard Project in conjunction with Marty Vitale, owner of two Foodtown Supermarkets in Hoboken who did not want competition. Hine insisted that any buildings built along the waterfront must be pushed back at least 100 feet in a grid of very small blocks and that the rest of the waterfront should be a park.
“The public hearing was at City Hall starting at 6:30. We had a huge turnout in favor of the project”
March 27, 1995
It took two tries to get our plan approved by the local planning board, but we prevailed, and final approval was granted by the city of Hoboken, the NJDEP and my settlement with opposition in the late 1990’s.
"Back and forth all day with Cosmo Sancio, Joe Sita and Anthony Diaco regarding a dispute between two union locals. I told Cosmo that I really was not able to solve this because I did not think his position was fair or that the mason union would go for it. In addition, Anthony Diaco has a commitment to me, which he has to honor, and I cannot give away his position or the position of anyone under him. I promised to try and make peace, and to arrange a meeting to see what we could do.
Meanwhile, Anthony and I will see what muscle the masons have tomorrow morning”
April 28, 1998
"I met with Don Laloia (of NY Waterways), along with Allen and Michael to discuss putting a ferry service in at the 14th St. Pier. It’ll take 9 months to get our own ferry, which might then go downtown as well as midtown.”
April 28, 1998
Today, the Shipyard is a mixed-use development consisting of: 1,160 residential units located in six 13-story, three 11-story, and two 2-story structures. Also included is 65,200 square feet of retail space, including the adaptive reuse of the existing machine shop. In addition, the project includes four blocks of the new Hudson River Walkway, access and public use of the existing 14th Street pier, a landscaped park, and 1,466 parking spaces, the majority integrated into lower levels of the proposed structures.
The Shipyard development was the most significant project undertaken in the history of Applied Housing Associates. It moved the company from a developer of buildings to a developer of neighborhoods and designer of cities. More importantly, its success established the company’s reputation as a developer of note. The Shipyard became the basis of a new model for Applied Housing Development, one that was followed in subsequent projects that we initiated, including Port Liberté in Jersey City, Pier Village in Long Branch, and Riverwatch in New Brunswick.
The Shipyard is so massive an undertaking that, indeed, the build-out continues to this day, with attempts to receive approvals for the last project, The Monarch Project, on the last bit of land above 14th Street on the River.