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Design would reshape Jersey City skyline

JERSEY CITY, N.J. --In his design for a 52-story tower across the Hudson River from Manhattan, internationally acclaimed architect Rem Koolhaas wants to inspire social interaction, life and energy.

The building's design -- three rectangular slabs stacked perpendicular to each other -- allows for a mix of uses: condominiums, a hotel, artist lofts and studios, gallery and retail space.

"I am putting together familiar elements in an unfamiliar way," he said Monday in an interview after presenting renderings and models of the project at the Jersey City Museum.

The Dutch architect, winner of the prestigious Pritzker Architectural Prize, showcased his plans to transform the Jersey City skyline. He said he was conscious of creating the mix of uses to allow for people to interact, which he said is unusual in a high-rise building.

"We are creating something slightly more memorable and slightly more energetic," he said.

The $400 million project, with public spaces on three levels of the structure, will anchor an arts district a few blocks from the water in a booming area. It will be among the tallest residential projects in New Jersey and will sit diagonally across the street from another high-rise condo with a famous name, Trump Plaza: Jersey City.

Residential construction continues to blossom in Jersey City, which offers lower prices than New York and a quick commute to Lower Manhattan.

The new building will replace a brick 130-year-old former tobacco factory, now being demolished, which was embroiled for years in a legal dispute. The city wanted to create an arts district in the area, and the owner of the warehouse sued saying Jersey City was restricting what could be developed on the site.

The parties settled last summer, allowing developers to move forward with plans for luxury housing as well as the cultural elements. The settlement required 117 affordable housing units and 120 less-expensive spaces for artists studios and lofts. Another condition included hiring a world-class architect, said Bill Matsikoudis, the city's corporation counsel. Developers with the Athena Group of New York said about 300 condo units are expected to have a price range of $500,000 to $1 million.

Koolhaas has also designed the Seattle Public Library, the Prada store in New York, the Casa da Musica concert hall in Porto, Portugal, and the China Central Television Headquarters, under construction in Beijing.

Monday's announcement culminated negotiations to build a signature project in Jersey City, Matsikoudis said

"It's a piece art in and of itself, a 600-foot tall sculpture," he said.