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Posted by Steven Glazer on June 19, 2003 at 12:50:20:

By Steven Glazer
UTN NEWS email:

More on Frank Hague

Jersey City–In a little less than a year a monumental renovation project will begin at the mammoth Jersey City Medical Center when the hospital relocates to its new home on Grand Street. George Filopolous told the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency of his vision for the future of the buildings that are the Jewel in the Crown of the legendary Mayor Frank Hague’s Jersey City.

Hague built the hospital to be the finest in the country and spared no expense to see that residents of Jersey City had the best available. It was built by Hague to tend the needs of the community then, and if Filopolous has his way, Hague’s vision will carry on years into the future. When first built in the late 1930s and completed in 1940 it was an enormous project. Hague was instrumental in helping FDR get re-elected, and as repayment, FDR made federal WPA funds available to build on a scale Jersey City probably never could have afforded alone. There are nine buildings on ten acres enclosing more than one million square feet.

The Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital was named for Hague’s mother, and the building was even constructed in the form of the letter “H” so when seen from the air it is Hague’s monogram. Murdock Hall was the dormitory of the school of nursing that trained young women from all over the United States and other countries to be nurses. It is a magnificent example of art deco architecture. In fact it was the set for much of the movie "Quiz Show." Most viewers thought that the interiors they saw in that film were in the Rockefeller Center television studios of the early TV networks that broadcast the shows. Those interiors were Murdock Hall.

Hague himself occupied a penthouse that covered the entire top floor of the Hague hospital. There is a tunnel that runs from the site at Montgomery Street and Baldwin Avenue to the Brennan Court House on Newark Avenue and Baldwin, about a half mile away. For all his excesses and idiosyncrasies, Hague remained in power longer than anybody before or since by taking care of “his” people and the Medical Center, built to provide first-rate medical care to residents of Jersey City "without regard to the ability to pay," was a major part of Hague’s sensitivity to the community.

Filopolous’ plan to preserve the best of the Hague Historic legacy and will also herald the next wave of development of Jersey City, away from the waterfront. Filopolous told commissioners that his plan took into account a good reuse of the structures that no longer are viable as a hospital but that could serve to anchor and bring back the surrounding neighborhood, already beginning a rebound.

The redesign would include 800 studio, 1, 2, and 3-bedroom market rate rental units on upper floors above retail and commercial space below, including professional offices. A key part of the plan is an 8-story parking structure with entrances from three sides of the property.

Equally important, said Filopolous, is community input. Filopolous agreed with Redevelopment Commissioners to schedule meetings with neighborhood residents and held, probably in the auditorium of the Medical Center, as soon as can be scheduled. Area residents are encouraged to make known their concerns and sensitivities, said Filopolous, "All good ideas and input are welcome." With conventional financing lined up, not depending on tax gimmicks or city bonding, Filopolous boasts a track record that includes the successful rehab of Metropolis towers on Montgomery Street also with about 800 units and about a million square feet. According to the developer, that project involved a similar degree of complexity since the property was in bankruptcy that required a workout and was also continuously occupied by 2,000 residents while the work was done.

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