The approximately $15 million Courthouse Park project in Jersey City, N.J., is expected to be the centerpiece of the rapidly expanding Journal Square neighborhood and an economic stimulus to drawing developers and residents.
Located on a three-acre site at 567 Pavonia Ave., Courthouse Park will be the first large public park to be built in Journal Square in decades. The park is the outcome of a five-year negotiation process between Hudson County, Jersey City, the Friends of Courthouse Park and other neighborhood stakeholders, to continue renaissance of Journal Square.
A prominent commercial district, Journal Square has seen significant development in the last two decades with offices and condo towers, a rebirth for a city in the most northern and population dense part of the state.
Designed by SWA Group, the Courthouse Park master plan is expected to be completed this year. The bidding and construction schedule has yet to be determined, SWA Group said.
“We are deeply honored to have been selected to create a new park to serve a growing and diverse population of downtown that has lacked well-functioning green space,” Tom Balsley, SWA/Balsley managing principal, said in a statement.
“We look forward to working closely with a wide range of constituents to add state-of-the-art open space to the fabric of this vibrant neighborhood,” he said.
Steven Lee, an associate principal at SWA/ Balsley, says some of the technical challenges include working around existing utilities.
“Given the park’s adjacency to the Beaux-Arts Brennan Courthouse and Powerhouse, the design team will be tasked with developing a design that acknowledges this historic context yet functions as a vibrant and sustainable 21st century public space,” Lee said.
Another challenge is designing something that appeals to everyone, and Lee believes public input will be needed to achieve such a design.
SWA Group plans a community-driven design process for Courthouse Park that will ensure that the space is responsive to diverse stakeholder needs while acting as a catalyst for future growth in Journal Square.
“This is a diverse neighborhood with many different constituents who will use the park; a robust community engagement process will help ensure that the design is a reflection of the community’s needs and aspirations,” Lee said.
The aging Administrative Services Building of the Hudson County Justice Complex, which now occupies the project site, will be demolished once the new Frank J. Guarini Justice Complex, designed by Rafael Viñoly, completes construction across the street. The design team is determining whether to retain a portion of the below grade garage attached to the Administrative Services Building.
The proposed park would be surrounded by a mix of uses, including the historic Beaux-Arts William J. Brennan Courthouse, commercial venues, existing and new residential buildings, and schools. It is one block away from the bustling Journal Square PATH station that offers mass transit access and connectivity to New York City.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who allocated $15 million in 2022 to design and complete Courthouse Park, has advocated for Courthouse Park for the last five years as part of a broader effort to improve parks and public spaces citywide—especially since there are no other parks in the surrounding area.
“We fought alongside the community for the past five years to transform the 3-acre lot on county-owned land into open park space for the neighborhood residents and visitors to enjoy,” Fulop said in a statement. “This park is especially important to the densely populated Journal Square area because there are no other parks nearby.”
Barkha Patel, director of Jersey City’s Dept. of Infrastructure, called the project “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to implement new park infrastructure in one of the most densely populated cities in the country.”
Patel said a community-centered process will prioritize “the needs of the residents who live directly adjacent to the area and have not had easy access to a park for decades, while also advancing a world-class design that is in alignment with our citywide goals of sustainability, resilience, transportation equity, innovation, and smart growth.”
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