Journal Square is a prominent commercial district within Jersey City, New Jersey, that has seen significant growth in recent years in response to a growing population in the New York City–adjacent municipality. Before it served as business district and regional transportation hub, the neighborhood—named for the newspaper the Jersey Journal that was once headquartered there—was a residential area with farmhouses and manors. While the neighborhood has seen significant development, particularly office and residential towers, in recent decades, one of its biggest open space projects has yet to be realized: Courthouse Park.
The new downtown park will be designed by SWA Group and will be situated on a plot abutting the Hudson County Courthouse, a Beaux Art–style building from 1910.
First announced in 2019, the three-acre park is a response to record population growth in Jersey City. The city’s population grew by 14.6 percent in the past decade-and-change, from around 248,000 in 2010 to almost 284,000 in 2021. The growth compounds a public space shortage: Jersey City now has the least public space per capita out of all New Jersey cities and towns.
“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,” SWA/Balsley Managing Principal Tom Balsley said in a press release. “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.”
Those familiar with the project site may have noticed a problem: it’s planned location is essentially on top of the Hudson County Administration Building, an International Style office building that opened in 1957. The complex is now considered to be redundant and will be demolished once its across-the-street replacement—the Frank J. Guarini Justice Complex, designed by the late Rafael Viñoly—is complete.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to implement new park infrastructure in one of the most densely populated cities in the country,” added Barkha Patel, Director of Jersey City’s Department of Infrastructure. “Through a community-centered process, we will be prioritizing 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.”
SWA Group has worked on another key park project in Jersey City: its waterfront. Alongside Perkins Eastman the landscape architecture, planning, and urban design firm, developed a master plan to transform 100 acres of formerly industrial land along the Hackensack River. The revitalization project will bring a network of parkland, promenades, marshes, and a beach to the 8,000 residential units planned for the Bayfront neighborhood.
The master planning process for Courthouse Park is underway but design details of the project have yet to be announced. If all goes according to plan, the master plan for the park is expected to be completed late this summer or early this fall.