Residents, commuters and visitors — really anyone who has come into downtown Jersey City for decades — has either come directly through or passed Exchange Place Plaza, often to head to some of the largest companies and high-rises in the area.
The Hyatt, Goldman Sachs, 99 Hudson and Urby are all within a few blocks and are clearly visible from Exchange Place.
Getting to them hasn’t been easy.
Even though the site, which has been a major transportation hub since Colonial times, handled approximately 12,000 pedestrians per day before the pandemic, pedestrians were forced to walk through two blocks along the waterfront that were in dire need of a better layout and infrastructure upgrade.
Those days are over.
On Oct. 6, Exchange Place Plaza will celebrate the ribbon-cutting of an $8 million project three years in the works, one that already is in use today.
Elizabeth Cain, executive director of the Exchange Place Alliance, is thrilled.
“It makes a beautiful space,” Cain said.
Cain said the redesign of the plaza significantly improves an individual’s experience along the waterfront — and that the reconfiguration and beautification of the plaza brings people out of their building to have lunch, coffee or just sit and enjoy the area with its terrific views of New York City.
Sitting at the end of Montgomery Street at the waterfront of the Hudson River, Cain said the capital improvement project — which was delayed by the pandemic — was long overdue.
“We wanted to have it more pedestrian- and community-friendly,” she said. “Columbus Drive was expanded by 30 feet to give a lot more room and a better flow to commuters leaving the PATH station and up along the waterfront.”
It also increases the safety and attractiveness of the location.
The redesign of the walkways keeps pedestrians moving from one point to another. In fact, the whole area in and around the PATH station offers a better flow and is more user-friendly.
The new plaza still will be closed to vehicles by retractable security bollards, but with an access road to the Hyatt House. It also still closes off a small portion of Christopher Columbus Drive at Hudson Street, only allowing vehicles to enter the Hyatt Regency next door.
And there are plenty of seats as well as new landscaping and lighting that not only helps with seating and beautifies the area, but helps with flood mitigation and water retention.
There is also plenty of room for events. This past summer, Exchange Place Plaza hosted a two-day jazz festival, which brought over a hundred musicians and food trucks and several thousand people to the plaza.
Everywhere you look, you can see the plaza was designed to be community- and commuter-friendly, Cain said.
There are informative stations along the promenade that explain to visitors what they are looking at, whether it’s a view, a history lesson or to see what events are going on. There are even free parking spaces for bikes and scooters.
“Everything that has been done, really adds to the area and makes it really pretty and welcoming for everyone,” she said.