If you’re looking to get some shopping and dining done then there’s no better place to do it then Downtown Jersey City. Considered to be one of Jersey City’s most desirable neighborhoods to live in, the area has gone through major redevelopment. Largely due to The Historic Downtown Special Improvement District, who worked in conjunction with property owners and local businesses to improve the neighborhood. Today, Downtown Jersey City is made up of the city’s historic downtown section and The Waterfront, which connects the neighborhood with Newport. Thanks to the efforts of both the residents and the local government Downtown Jersey City is now safer and cleaner. The city is now filled with activities that can range from dining, retail, fitness, to even services. With so many new things to do, we recommend taking a vacation to Downtown Jersey City.
Much of Downtown Jersey City’s history is similar to the rest of the state’s. The area would be occupied by the Lenape tribes until the first European settlers would come to the America’s. The neighborhood would be used during key battles during the American Revolutionary War.
Much of the neighborhood would be developed during the 19th century, with many brownstone buildings lined in the area. There would also be a number of industrial buildings constructed in the area, most of these buildings would be converted or redeveloped into residential apartments, a good example of this is the Dixon Mills.
Some old warehouses would even be turned into art districts, such was the case with The Powerhouse Arts District. Most of Downtown Jersey City’s high-rise buildings would go up during the 2000’s, flooding the neighborhood with new retail stores and restaurants. This also allowed for many tourist to visit Jersey City with the intention of checking out the new shops and restaurants. there are still new stores opening to this day, such as Bourke Street Bakery, the newest addition to the list of Jersey City bakery’s. Certain neighborhoods have managed to keep their historic buildings, most are lined on Harsimus which lies in between Van Vorst Park and Hamilton Park.
Harsimus is a neighborhood within the Downtown Jersey City District and is lined with 19th century row houses. Like the rest of Jersey City, it was previously inhabited by the Lenape, though most of its buildings would be constructed during the 1830’s. Much of Harsimus’ urbanization was done by John Coles, a merchant who expanded the neighborhood during this time. The city’s proximity to its shoreline allowed for the neighborhood to develop into a busy port city.
Harsimus would truly flourish thanks to the development of the railroad industry. During the 1870’s the neighborhood would be land-filled to make way for the addition of railyards. The addition of railroads and terminals allowed for huge stockyards to be built along the waterfront.
The neighborhood would face a wave of political corruption beginning in the early 1900’s. From 1910 to about 1950 Harsimus would be the site of gerrymandering, slowing down any further process of development. Between 1950 and 1970 the area would suffer from massive economic and population decline. Largely due to Port Newark’s development, which is now the main shipping dock of the Greater New York Metropolitan area. It was in the 1970’s that Harsimus would finally go through a redevelopment phase.
Slums would be cleared and many new housing projects would go up, most of which are aimed at middle and low income residents. This renewal had no effect on the 19th century row houses previously built in the neighborhood, largely due to a preservation movement. While the preservation managed to protect the row houses in Harsimus the surrounding area would be redeveloped. Mass transit and affordable rents attracted many artists to the area, many of whom converted their buildings into live/work spaces. The influx of wealth led to High-rise residential buildings being constructed within the area. Most artists would continue their work in the Powerhouse Arts District. The main road running through Harsimus is Newark Ave which houses a pedestrian mall.
West of Harsimus lies a small but wonderful historic neighborhood called the Village. The Village houses many historic buildings that have been preserved thanks to efforts by the local community. The neighborhood was once known as Jersey City’s very own “Little Italy”, many of its roots are still there today.
The neighborhood is littered with many restaurants and cafes for anyone needing some quiet time in the city. You’ll even find a wine tavern in the Village, filled with different types of cheeses and cocktails. The Village is also home to the oldest polish speaking parish in New Jersey, with many Polish worshipers attending the church daily.
Built in order to serve Polish parishioners, the St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church serves as the neighborhoods main building of worship and doubles as a historic attraction. Before its inception polish Catholics would often have to take a ferry to the other side of the river just to attend service. The construction of the building allowed residents convenient access to a house of worship. St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004 and is now one of the centerpieces in the Village.
Another one of the Villages historic buildings is the White Eagle Hall, which has been used as a community center since 1910. It was originally built by Polish immigrants who were led by Rev. Peter Boleslaus Kwiatowski. Rev. Kwiatowski would help establish many parishes around New Jersey. Ownership of the hall would be transferred over to the St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic church in 1934. The hall would serve as a bingo hall and practice center for a local basketball team called the Friars, coached by Bob Hurley.
In 1968 White Eagle Hall would serve as the stage for multiple band competitions, Frank Infante would begin his career here. This would go on until about 1975, eventually the building would be put up for renovation. It wasn’t until 2013 that the building would finally see a restoration period, the hall would then be reopened in 2017.
The district itself is located on the Jersey City waterfront overlooking the Hudson River. The Powerhouse Arts District would be converted after many artists began to move into the area due to cheaper rent. Most artists would prefer to live in the same area they worked, this led to the city proposing new zoning laws that would allow people to work where they lived. Unfortunately the districts were never zoned and with a boost in the local economy the neighborhood began to favor high rise buildings. Many of these old buildings would still remain in the area, the most well known being the powerhouse. The main arts center is located in a renovated generating station named the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad Powerhouse, this is where the district would get its name.
The Powerhouse Arts district is now filled with shops and restaurants for residents to enjoy. its collection of bars, grills, and breweries make it an excellent spot for a vacation! So take a limo down to the neighborhood for a visit, but be warned, with so much to do you may want to have a driver for more than a few hours!
Another mixed-use community in Downtown Jersey City is Newport, which was redeveloped in 1986 by The LeFrak Organization. The district is now home to many retail and entertainment facilities situated on the Hudson Waterfront. The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail also has a stop in Newport, connecting it to the local neighborhoods though if you’re looking for more reliable transportation try taking a taxi instead. Newport is home to a variety of restaurants, whether you’re looking for burgers, bakeries or bars!
From 1985 to 2009 the neighborhood would undergo a major real estate development. High-rise rental apartments and condominiums were built allowing for the additions of many new households.
Newport‘s redevelopment plan also allowed for the construction of new hotel buildings, with some hotels using remnants of old warehouses dating back to 1989. The neighborhood also contains a great number of office spaces, over five million square feet of it, with many big named companies residing within the neighborhood. Some of the most well-known companies include L’Oreal, Citigroup, Forbes, and even JP Morgan Chase. Newport is packed with both local shops and big name retail stores that tend to coexist in mixed use spaces.
The Newport River Market is a perfect example of this due to its dining, retail, and service options. The market is located on a river front and is home to stores like Target, Sears, Staples, and many more. If you’re looking for a quick bite, you’ll find the neighborhood loaded with pizzeria’s, cafes, and even houses a steakhouse!
Another great shopping area in Newport is the Newport Centre, better known as the Newport Mall. The mall would open in 1987 with over a million square feet of space and attracted buyers from all over. The Newport Mall was the first of its size in Hudson County and is home to over 150 stores and services.
The mall itself has three floors and is part of the Newport Complex, which stands as the sixth tallest building in Jersey City. The mall also houses AMC Theaters, JCPenny, Macy’s, and Kohl’s, the mall was also home to Sears back when they still operated. Today, the Newport Mall attracts visitors from as close as Bergen-Lafayette to as far as Atlantic City, making it an excellent place to shop for anyone visiting.
Paulus Hook is an elevated neighborhood in Downtown Jersey City that derives its name from the Dutch word for “point of land”, Hoeck. Like much of New Jersey, Paulus Hook was originally settled by the Lenape, then managed by the Dutch and English until the American Revolutionary War. During the American Revolution Paulus Hook would be the site of many operations, with many key forts built in New Jersey, one of which was located on Paulus Hook.
Paulus Hook would see a major construction boom following the addition of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail. The rail helps connect Hudson County with other neighborhoods in the city, such as Bergen-Lafayette. After the September 11 attack the neighborhood would see major investments going into expanding the area.
Paulus Hook’s waterfront faces the Hudson River, you’ll find that the waterfront has phenomenal views to offer. Vacation goers will find that many of the locals are from the surrounding neighborhoods, many of who use the light rail for easy access. If you’re looking to avoid the public transit, you’ll be happy to know there are a number of limo services that can take you around the neighborhood.
The district sits on a piece of land that was created by landfilling the shore on Paulus Hook. The neighborhood itself has been a transportation hub for much of its history dating back to the 1760’s. Exchange Place was the original site of the first steam ferry service, which stood at the head of a highway to Newark. The ferry would be established in 1812 and would influence the location of certain terminals built in Jersey City. From 1838 to 1892 the Pennsylvania Railroad would purchase and remodel the terminal in order to expand it. During this time the neighborhood was not referred to as Exchange Place but instead as the Pennsylvania Railroad station.
The addition of the New Jersey Railroad and construction of a new intermodal terminal helped propel the neighborhood into an important transportation center on the East Coast. Local transportation in Jersey City would be the first to refer to the neighborhood as Exchange Place, in order to better identify where passengers wanted to go. At the turn of the century the station would be given to the city, where it would be expanded and renovated. The Hudson and Manhattan Railroad would open tunnels in 1910, and in 1926 the station would officially adopt the name Exchange Place. In 1949 business began to dwindle, ferry service was being discontinued and buses would replace rail lines. Then finally in 1962 the station would officially close down and be demolished, with many of its railyards being eliminated. Now a days most residents would prefer to take a taxi down to Exchange Place, sometimes even as far out as Pennsylvania.
Newark Avenue allows easier access to EWR by providing a direct road to the airport. The Hudson Bergen Light Rail still operates out of Exchange Place making it easy to travel from Bergen-Lafayette or any other local neighborhood. If you’re planning on going further out you’ll be happy to know the PATH still has terminals at Exchange Place, so have fun visiting Atlantic City! Exchange Place isn’t just a terminal however, it’s also home to two of New Jersey’s tallest buildings, 99 Hudson and the Goldman Sachs Tower. With a plethora of restaurants, rooftop bars, and even vintage shops visiting Exchange Place should be on your list.
North of Harsimus lies Hamilton Park, a quiet, Victorian aged greenspace surrounded by 19th century row houses. The park itself was constructed around 1827 and was founded by a man named John B. Coles. John B. Coles was a federalist from New York who laid out the groundwork for Downtown Jersey City’s foundation. He would name the park after Alexander Hamilton, who on top of being a founding father was also the founder for the federalist party. Hamilton Park is about 5.4 acre square that houses a wide selection of shops, boutiques, and restaurants. Inside the Park you’ll find many activities when visiting, ranging from children’s playground, basketball courts, and even dog parks. Hamilton Park even features a splash pond and sprinklers for little ones to enjoy during the summer!
The park also has a number of events as well, during the summer the community hosts the Hamilton Park Festival where visitors can enjoy music and food in the park. The Park also hosts outdoor movie nights, the schedule can be found on a banner in the entrance, or simply online. Hamilton Park is also home to a Gazebo that has a farmers market set up every Wednesday from May to December. Visitors can enjoy some iced cold lemonade, popcorn, and fresh produce sold in the market. The farmers market also sells jams, green vegetables, and even Empanadas!
The park also has its own preservation group that maintains Hamilton Park clean and safe for all ages. Hamilton Park Conservancy is dedicated to protecting the park’s natural beauty. Hamilton Park is also surrounded with different activities for all ages to enjoy whether that be ice cream shops, gyms or even instrument and dance classes.
You’ll find the park is engulfed with Victorian era buildings with colorful murals all over the neighborhood. If you’re looking to get some food while at Hamilton park grab a bite at Carmine’s Pizza or sit down at a restaurant for some Korean food. Hamilton Park also features a bar and even an hotel in the area, appropriately named Hamilton Inn. If you’re planning a calm vacation, try visiting Hamilton Park; its beautiful greenery and friendly residents make it an excellent spot.
The name itself comes from the Van Vorst family, who acted as supervisors to the land and helped in its development during the 1630’s. Van Vorst Park would begin to build row houses in the 1800’s. The Van Vorst family would manage the settlement throughout generations until about 1862, During this time the family would employ local florist, Peter Henderson, to landscape the park. Van Vorst Park would be renovated in the 2000’s thanks to a $2 million fund being raised by the Friends of Van Vorst Park. The park is now filled with playgrounds, sandboxes, a gazebo, and even sprinkler parks!
Van Vorst Park is very similar to Washington Square Park located near SoHo, New York City. However the park in Downtown Jersey City features much more traditional architecture. Today the park is mainly a residential area with many brick row houses and Victorian architecture. While there are still plenty of shops and restaurants for visitors to enjoy, the neighborhood is much more of a visual treat. It’s traditional architecture and friendly residents make it a perfect place to escape from the noise, and with so many transportation options to or from New Jersey, getting to Van Vorst Park can be a hassle free experience. While you may be tempted to take public transit to Downtown Jersey City, don’t be afraid to take a taxi. Now a days the Tri State area is filled with limos and drivers that are more than willing to take you to Jersey City.
If you’re planning on doing some shopping in the area than it might be best to contract a limo service. most limos in the area are willing to provide an hourly service for anyone doing a tour of the city.
If you’re coming from out of state then you’ll be happy to know that most car services can go as far out as Pennsylvania or even Connecticut. This makes visiting New Jersey not just a possibility but a must.