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Hudson County, NJ should be a model for Norfolk

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Okay, these things are what I seem to think about, and while I have no plans of ever moving back to Virginia or Norfolk or Virginia Beach, I still find myself thinking about those cities, their progress and the cities in the country they should strive to be more like.

I currently live just outside of Manhattan now in Hudson County, which is roughly about the size of Norfolk land wise, but about 600K+ population with a skyline that has a tower that is over 700ft tall.

But there are some similarities in the city, the downtown of Jersey City which is at the heart of Hudson County (which the county really should of become a city back in the early 1900s) is roughly a little over a mile by mile big, it is a tiny downtown much like Norfolk's. The downtown also has a large portion that has been built in recent years as the city has rebuilt it's downtown, it also has a thick area of smaller buildings that are about 100 years old that make up the rest of the downtown.

There is also a light rail system that winds through downtown that has two lines running on it that connect several neighborhoods together.

With me actually living here, it would be interesting to start a topic on the comparison of the two cities, as well as possible ideas for the city of Norfolk on what could be done that has worked in Jersey City and Hudson County.

One of the big things I have found is the amount of section 8 housing that use to surround downtown has been torn down and while much of it is still vacant land, the city has slowly been developing the land with new developments which have been expanding the downtown's reach. This is something downtown Norfolk has in common with its circle of low income housing, which would be interesting to see the city finally move forward with trying to reclaim those areas back into the urban grid of downtown Norfolk.

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Okay, these things are what I seem to think about, and while I have no plans of ever moving back to Virginia or Norfolk or Virginia Beach, I still find myself thinking about those cities, their progress and the cities in the country they should strive to be more like.

I currently live just outside of Manhattan now in Hudson County, which is roughly about the size of Norfolk land wise, but about 600K+ population with a skyline that has a tower that is over 700ft tall.

But there are some similarities in the city, the downtown of Jersey City which is at the heart of Hudson County (which the county really should of become a city back in the early 1900s) is roughly a little over a mile by mile big, it is a tiny downtown much like Norfolk's. The downtown also has a large portion that has been built in recent years as the city has rebuilt it's downtown, it also has a thick area of smaller buildings that are about 100 years old that make up the rest of the downtown.

There is also a light rail system that winds through downtown that has two lines running on it that connect several neighborhoods together.

With me actually living here, it would be interesting to start a topic on the comparison of the two cities, as well as possible ideas for the city of Norfolk on what could be done that has worked in Jersey City and Hudson County.

One of the big things I have found is the amount of section 8 housing that use to surround downtown has been torn down and while much of it is still vacant land, the city has slowly been developing the land with new developments which have been expanding the downtown's reach. This is something downtown Norfolk has in common with its circle of low income housing, which would be interesting to see the city finally move forward with trying to reclaim those areas back into the urban grid of downtown Norfolk.

You're comparing an area which is part of the NYC metro with Norfolk. There really just isn't a comparison. The Jersey City skyline is a direct result of the cost of Manhattan real estate. The largest building in Jersey City was built by Goldman Sachs just across the Hudson because it was cheaper land to build on while being one Path stop outside of the Manhattan. (They did move back to a new headquarters in downtown Manhattan a few years ago). The same can be said for the high rise apartments that line the river as well. It all has to do with the proximity to Manhattan, being cheaper than Manhattan, and being part of the NYC metro. Jersey City also has Hoboken to the north, as well as Newark to the south. You would expect Newark to cannibalize some businesses from Jersey City, however it is not considered nearly as desirable and companies would be reliant on NJ Transit to move employees living in NY and generally Newark has a bad reputation.

If Norfolk were closer to a major city like DC, it would be much bigger than it is now. Norfolk is completely reliant on organic growth which is very difficult right now because this region doesn't seem to attract big businesses to the area. It is those large businesses that will build those large buildings (lets be honest, its all banks and insurance companies). Norfolk should focus more on what Charlotte did to attract BoA to the city, which was huge tax concessions.

I am curious about how Jersey City removed their public housing. If you can give more information on that I'd be curious. That is something I have a feeling Norfolk will be dealing with for a long time coming.

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Okay, these things are what I seem to think about, and while I have no plans of ever moving back to Virginia or Norfolk or Virginia Beach, I still find myself thinking about those cities, their progress and the cities in the country they should strive to be more like.

I currently live just outside of Manhattan now in Hudson County, which is roughly about the size of Norfolk land wise, but about 600K+ population with a skyline that has a tower that is over 700ft tall.

But there are some similarities in the city, the downtown of Jersey City which is at the heart of Hudson County (which the county really should of become a city back in the early 1900s) is roughly a little over a mile by mile big, it is a tiny downtown much like Norfolk's. The downtown also has a large portion that has been built in recent years as the city has rebuilt it's downtown, it also has a thick area of smaller buildings that are about 100 years old that make up the rest of the downtown.

There is also a light rail system that winds through downtown that has two lines running on it that connect several neighborhoods together.

With me actually living here, it would be interesting to start a topic on the comparison of the two cities, as well as possible ideas for the city of Norfolk on what could be done that has worked in Jersey City and Hudson County.

One of the big things I have found is the amount of section 8 housing that use to surround downtown has been torn down and while much of it is still vacant land, the city has slowly been developing the land with new developments which have been expanding the downtown's reach. This is something downtown Norfolk has in common with its circle of low income housing, which would be interesting to see the city finally move forward with trying to reclaim those areas back into the urban grid of downtown Norfolk.

You're comparing an area which is part of the NYC metro with Norfolk. There really just isn't a comparison. The Jersey City skyline is a direct result of the cost of Manhattan real estate. The largest building in Jersey City was built by Goldman Sachs just across the Hudson because it was cheaper land to build on while being one Path stop outside of the Manhattan. (They did move back to a new headquarters in downtown Manhattan a few years ago). The same can be said for the high rise apartments that line the river as well. It all has to do with the proximity to Manhattan, being cheaper than Manhattan, and being part of the NYC metro. Jersey City also has Hoboken to the north, as well as Newark to the south. You would expect Newark to cannibalize some businesses from Jersey City, however it is not considered nearly as desirable and companies would be reliant on NJ Transit to move employees living in NY and generally Newark has a bad reputation.

If Norfolk were closer to a major city like DC, it would be much bigger than it is now. Norfolk is completely reliant on organic growth which is very difficult right now because this region doesn't seem to attract big businesses to the area. It is those large businesses that will build those large buildings (lets be honest, its all banks and insurance companies). Norfolk should focus more on what Charlotte did to attract BoA to the city, which was huge tax concessions.

I am curious about how Jersey City removed their public housing. If you can give more information on that I'd be curious. That is something I have a feeling Norfolk will be dealing with for a long time coming.

Okay, these things are what I seem to think about, and while I have no plans of ever moving back to Virginia or Norfolk or Virginia Beach, I still find myself thinking about those cities, their progress and the cities in the country they should strive to be more like.

I currently live just outside of Manhattan now in Hudson County, which is roughly about the size of Norfolk land wise, but about 600K+ population with a skyline that has a tower that is over 700ft tall.

But there are some similarities in the city, the downtown of Jersey City which is at the heart of Hudson County (which the county really should of become a city back in the early 1900s) is roughly a little over a mile by mile big, it is a tiny downtown much like Norfolk's. The downtown also has a large portion that has been built in recent years as the city has rebuilt it's downtown, it also has a thick area of smaller buildings that are about 100 years old that make up the rest of the downtown.

There is also a light rail system that winds through downtown that has two lines running on it that connect several neighborhoods together.

With me actually living here, it would be interesting to start a topic on the comparison of the two cities, as well as possible ideas for the city of Norfolk on what could be done that has worked in Jersey City and Hudson County.

One of the big things I have found is the amount of section 8 housing that use to surround downtown has been torn down and while much of it is still vacant land, the city has slowly been developing the land with new developments which have been expanding the downtown's reach. This is something downtown Norfolk has in common with its circle of low income housing, which would be interesting to see the city finally move forward with trying to reclaim those areas back into the urban grid of downtown Norfolk.

You're comparing an area which is part of the NYC metro with Norfolk. There really just isn't a comparison. The Jersey City skyline is a direct result of the cost of Manhattan real estate. The largest building in Jersey City was built by Goldman Sachs just across the Hudson because it was cheaper land to build on while being one Path stop outside of the Manhattan. (They did move back to a new headquarters in downtown Manhattan a few years ago). The same can be said for the high rise apartments that line the river as well. It all has to do with the proximity to Manhattan, being cheaper than Manhattan, and being part of the NYC metro. Jersey City also has Hoboken to the north, as well as Newark to the south. You would expect Newark to cannibalize some businesses from Jersey City, however it is not considered nearly as desirable and companies would be reliant on NJ Transit to move employees living in NY and generally Newark has a bad reputation.

If Norfolk were closer to a major city like DC, it would be much bigger than it is now. Norfolk is completely reliant on organic growth which is very difficult right now because this region doesn't seem to attract big businesses to the area. It is those large businesses that will build those large buildings (lets be honest, its all banks and insurance companies). Norfolk should focus more on what Charlotte did to attract BoA to the city, which was huge tax concessions.

I am curious about how Jersey City removed their public housing. If you can give more information on that I'd be curious. That is something I have a feeling Norfolk will be dealing with for a long time coming.

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Obviously NYC plays a huge part in Jersey City's growth, and Jersey City did peak its population in 1920, so of course on the surface there is little to compare, but Jersey City as a whole is on par with Norfolk. There are still stuggling neighborhoods throughout the Westside, as well as neighborhoods that have seen improvements.

I will look into how they have handled their section 8 housing that was near downtown, I was in an area with a friend who has lived here is entire life and was telling me about how the city tore down a huge area of public housing.

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I'm not sure where the former public housing you mentioned were located. In the immediate downtown area, I can't think of any that were torn down within the past 10-15 years. An abandoned warehouse on First Street that artists had started a colony in was torn down maybe 10 years ago, but that wasn't public housing. In other parts of the city, Duncan Houses were torn down for lower/mid rise modern housing by Lincoln Park. Montgomery Gardens Houses are being emptied in anticipation of redevelopment there, with new housing along Grand/Pacific receiving many of those residents. But downtown there are still public housing, but not in large high rises or complexes. The public housing along Monmouth/Mercer streets, for example, is pretty well integrated into the neighborhood. No tall fences and superblocks, so it's not a barrier or obstacle in the same way it is in Norfolk.

Most of the larger-scale development in downtown Jersey City has been near the waterfront. JC's waterfront was once a huge rail terminal. Each of the major railroads (Erie, Lackawanna, Jersey Central, etc.) had large rail yards at the Jersey City waterfront with ferry terminals to take passengers over to Manhattan (the Erie-Lackawanna ferry terminal in Hoboken and the Communipaw terminal in Liberty State Park survive as examples). The Pennsylvania and Hudson & Manhattan (now PATH) were the only railroads that built tunnels over to Manhattan from Jersey. What is now Exchange Place, Harborside Financial Center, Pavonia/Newport, etc. were rail yards and a few factories 50 years ago. After those railroads were swallowed up through the 1950s, 60s, 70s, the railyards were removed, and the land used for not much more than parking cars.

In the 1980s, the LeFrak organization developed Newport Centre Mall, Newport Tower, etc., on what used to be the Erie Railroad terminal (notice the letter "E" at the top of the columns at the Pavonia/Newport PATH station). Other development followed, but it was slow to gain momentum. Jersey City was in decline, it had a lot of the same issues Newark wrestles with still. A friend of mine who went to high school at St. Peters Prep in Paulus Hook in the 90s remembers walking to Newport Mall after school with nothing but parking lots in between the school and the mall. Development in JC in the 80s and 90s was risky and the city couldn't be too selective or demanding (and probably didn't have the technical capacity for good urban planning anyway), so you have some really odd suburban style things (Metro Plaza, Avalon Cove, etc.) in an area that was developed in a more vertical and "traditional urban" style a decade or two later. It's kind of reminiscent of Atlanta in that regard.

Jersey City's redevelopment has been a huge feat, but the City had the advantage of a blank slate on the waterfront. Developers bought up large numbers of acres of parking lots and didn't have to kick anybody out. Jersey City still has some "weird" areas that haven't been developed yet near the waterfront. Much of that is in the long embattled PAD/WALDO district (a book will be written about this one some day).

Jersey City waterfront, 1962: Jersey City from the air showing all the piers, factories and rail yards that still lined the Hudson River in 1962. All of this is now long gone. (please feel free to put notes on this!)

Jersey City waterfront, 2010: New Jersey and New Jersey Financial Center

I think Norfolk has some similarities to Jersey City, in that Norfolk cleared large areas around downtown around mid-century, so there was a similar sort of blank slate at one point. MacArthur Center filled in the really big hole in the heart of downtown, Wachovia Center filled in another. But as other posters said, Norfolk doesn't have NYC across the river. It has Portsmouth across the river (LOL!). So the energy/gravity/pressure etc. that affect development aren't the same.

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