The renovation of Exchange Place Plaza to incorporate a pedestrian plaza is one step closer to reality as the former bus terminal recently received the go-ahead from the Jersey City planning board.
In the works for the last three years, the idea of making improvements to the foot traffic area was born as a way to increase the safety and attractiveness of the location, Elizabeth Cain, executive director of the Exchange Place Alliance, said.
The alliance’s sole purpose is to preserve and advance Jersey City’s Exchange Place neighborhood and be the driving force behind the redevelopment there, engage with the community and make the waterfront a better place for all. That includes regular maintenance, litter removal, seasonal decorations, landscaping and other beautification, pedestrian safety, special events and business support.
“Residents, visitors and businesses in and around Exchange Place can expect the plaza to be improved to the dynamic standard of the entire neighborhood and realize the potential of our beautiful waterfront,” Cain said.
And, with the number of financial and other companies that have offices in and around the plaza, Cain said the capital improvement project is long overdue. Renovation began in 2019, but then, COVID hit.
“The alliance has a real focus on overseeing a master plan for the area because of the number of visitors and workers that pass through,” Cain said.
There are five hotels in the immediate area, along with a huge influx of workers that come in on a day-to-day basis to the Class A offices, plus a lot of residents.
“There is a nice mix of people that the alliance saw needed a means to experience connectivity — and the plaza is the thoroughfare that could do just that,” she said.
Plans for the revitalized plaza feature more landscaping, a playground and places for people to sit down on the eastern end of Montgomery Street from Hudson Street to the waterfront: overall, a much-improved park for all of Jersey City. Exchange Place will be a more aesthetic and beautiful public space with the hopes to significantly improve residents’ and visitors’ experience along the waterfront while making infrastructure updates and creating public space.
Cain said that, eventually, there will be weekly events, live music, farmers markets and other various entertainment for the community.
“We were looking to create a destination spot where people can gather outdoors and have a movie night or see fireworks from across the way,” Cain said. “The fact is this project is a tremendous improvement on the area’s current condition will be a great asset to the neighborhood in terms of safety, accessibility and multiuse open event space.”
The hope is to create more vibrancy and keep people in the plaza for longer hours, not just at commuting and lunchtime. It’s going to be a great change for the area and for all businesses, office space, retail and food establishments.
As an extra bonus, the nearly $7 million plaza will be funded without using a penny of taxpayer money.
“Exchange Place Alliance is funding the entire thing. We have the cash to just pay for it without any bonding. There’s no municipal or government funds being used. It’s all straight from private funding, and we are happy to use those funds to create and amenity for all of those people in a public space.”