Warehouse Historic District
The Warehouse Historic District in downtown Jersey City consists the remnants of the waterfont industry that once dominated the city's Hudson River shoreline. The area includes or has included landmark buildings such as the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A&P) Headquarters, the Lorillard Tobbaco Factory, and the Butler Brothers Warehouse.
With the decline of the manufacturing industry in Jersey City and in America generally, the warehouse district became an underutilized neighborhood. The monumental warehouses were sparingly used for storage or light industry. In the 1990s, the district began a resurgence when artists began to lease space in the buildings for loft space.
In consultation with artist groups, preseravtionists, and neighborhood organizations, the city proposed the creation of a "Work and Live District Overlay" (WALDO) in the district that would allow certain of the former industrial use only warehouses to be converted into artist live-work spaces. In 2002, this proposal was expanded to create the "Powerhouse Arts District" a vibrant mixed residential and commercial use neighborhood that also created a municipal historic district to preserve the neighborhood's landmarks.
The creation of the "PAD" led to an almost immediate revitalization of the area. The J. Leo Cooke Warehouse (Top Right) underwent an award winning restoration and sold all of its units almost immediately. The A&P Headquarters (Top Left) is currently undergoing a similar restoration and provides rentals units, some of which are leased to qualified artists. Two art galleries and other retail spaces opened in the district.
Despite this success, certain property owners were not satisfied with an upzoning that converted their formerly industrial use only properties to lucrative residential and commerical use. The owner of property at 111 First Street, the property that was virtually abandoned until artists began to lease the space from the developer, inundated the city with lawsuits, demanding the right to demolish the landmark building and build a luxury skyscraper out of scale with all other buildings in the district. After a court invalidated the district's historic designation on a technicality, the city inexplicably refused to re-designate the district and instead capitulated to the developer's demands, allowing him to demolish 111 First Street and replace it with a proposed 54 story tower.
Since the city's abandonment of 111 First Street, other developers in the district have predictably halted projects that would have followed the prior redevelopment plan and instead demanded the right to demolish historic structures and replace them with high rise housing. Most notably, national developer Toll Brothers has been circulating a proposal that would demolish or alter the recently closed Manischewtiz Factory (formerly an annex for the A&P), eliminate one of the six remaining cobblestone streets in Jersey City, and build four times higher than permitted by the existing plan.
Residents of the new neighborhood, who bought into the city's promises of a historic district, have formed the "Powerhouse Arts District Neighborhood Association" and have started a legal fund to combat developers' brazen attempts to ram through proposed zoning changes without consulting with the members of the community who were instrumental in revitalizing the area and those who have moved into the district based on the city's past promises.
The Conservancy fully supports the efforts of PADNA and other organizations to preserve the Historic Warehouse District/Powerhouse Arts District and opposes any further concessions to developers that are not in accordance with the Redevelopment Plan.
Archival Page Header Image: Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, 150 Bay Street, Jersey City, New Jersey. Collection of Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.
Inset photo: The A & P Warehouse (150 Bay Street) and the J. Leo Cooke Warehouse (140 Bay Street), Jersey City, New Jersey. Courtesy of Leon Yost.
Text from the historical marker in front of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company headquarters (150 Bay Street) building at the western edge of the Warehouse Historic District:
The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company was founded in New York in 1859 by George Huntington Hartford and George Gilman as the nation’s first food chain.
A&P’s Jersey City warehouse, designed by Howard Chapman in 1907, served as a main distribution center and corporate headquarters.
The reinforced concrete warehouse is a registered National Historic Landmark, the only building in Jersey City to hold this prestigious designation.