Bayonne bounds forward
Progress fueled by development, open spaces, and transportation
Jun 13, 2018 | 3547 views | 0 0 comments | 250 250 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DEVELOPMENT
A ferry is planned for the former military ocean terminal base (MOTBY)
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New buildings are bound to change the face of Bayonne, two of which will create a truly urban skyline and become landmarksto be seen from miles around: twin 22-story towers on North Street. Meanwhile, a ferry is planned for the former military ocean terminal base (MOTBY) as well as thousands of residential units and a Costco.

The city has the most undeveloped space in the county. That space is either planned for development or is in the process of development. Rental fees in those buildings are often too high for most current residents, but the city and developers are hoping to attract newcomers who have been pushed out of the New York City housing market and young professionals seeking convenient locations from which to commute.

But luring developers to build in Bayonne can be politically dicey. Local government encouragesdevelopment by using payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs), which let developers make payments directly to the city instead of in property taxes, which help fund the school district. Because Bayonne is already underfunded, the city council passed an ordinance allotting five percent of payments to the school district, and another five percent to the county.

To encourage development where it is needed most—in and around public transit stations—the city revised its zoning ordinances to allow developers to build less parking if it wants. But developers still have to attract people to live in the buildings, and many of those people will probably want cars. Most developers have included indoor garages in their plans.

The grand plan

The new Master Plan, which was revised in July,2017, promotes contemporary urban planning principlesto create high-density, walkable, bike-able, and mixed-used development. The plan recommends the city establish “station area plans” for neighborhoods within a quarter mile of a light rail station as “transit villages.”

The plan creates two tiers of zoning. “Catalyst” projects would allow for buildings between eight and 10 stories, and require public open space, while “non-catalyst” projects would be between four and eight stories.

Catalyst projects within a four-block radius of the 22nd Street Light Rail station include 19 East, a 138-unit luxury rental building; Madison Hill on the former site of CJ Murphy; Skye Lofts South and Sky Lofts North, both on Avenue E combining for nearly 200 units; and a 180-unit Parkview Realty residential development.

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Most developers have included indoor garages in their plans.

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The MOTBY factor

City officials are so hopeful about Bayonne’s future that they are shooting for the stars. In September of 2017, the city joined hundreds of cities across the U.S. and Canada in responding to Amazon’s request for proposals for a location to build its second headquarters. Bayonne was banking on the former Military Ocean Terminal Base.

Amazon’s short list of finalists does not include Bayonne, but that doesn’t mean that MOTBY’s warehousing space has no value.

Lincoln Equities Group (LEG) recently completed its acquisition of a 153-acre site on MOTBY, called the Bayonne Logistics Center, formerly owned by Ports of America. The company plans to redevelop the property into 1.6 million square feet of industrial warehouse space adjacent to the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The existing World War II-era warehouses once stored missiles, tanks, and all kinds of cargo to ship abroad to support war efforts from 1967, when the peninsula became a military base, to 1999, when the base closed.

What companies will occupy that space is not yet determined, but Amazon could be in the mix, because the company has been spreading its warehouse footprint like wildfire in New Jersey in the last few years.

At MOTBY, multiple large residential developments are set to break ground after years of environmental remediation and financial planning. Those plans have attracted a Costco to the area of Route 440 near the 34th Street Light Rail Station, near residential developments on the base.

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The city has the most undeveloped space in the county.

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That ribbon of highway

The 34th Street Light Rail pedestrian bridge will soon fulfill its original goal of allowing pedestrians to safely cross Route 440. Currently, it takes only light rail riders over the tracks to a parking lot. With so much development set for the other side of Route 440, pedestrians will finally have a destination to walk to.

South of MOTBY, and across from the 34th Street station, South Cove Commons has been in constant redevelopment mode. The area is under renovation to make the area more attractive to pedestrians. In November, the Alessi Group, which develops South Cove, installed a large limestone frieze that once graced the long-demolished Philadelphia Civic Center.

While the 34th Street pedestrian walkway is in the works, Alessi redesigned the other pedestrian access point to South Cove at 22nd Street by installing a new signal to provide enough time for pedestrians to safely cross, and a vehicle off-ramp was removed.

Most new developments in the city are intended for mixed-use purposes, meaning the ground floors can be used for commercial entities, while the top is typically reserved for residential use. South Cove is also building new office spaces to accommodate the changing needs of local businesses.

Continue up Route 440, and vehicles can enter the NJ Turnpike via Exit 14A, which has been under construction for the last few years and was completed in May, three months early.

The project increased toll plaza capacity from 11 to 13 lanes, extended the ramp from Interchange 14A westbound, expanded the Hudson County Extension to two lanes, and replaced the existing two-lane connector bridge with a new four-lane structure to Route 440, Route 185, and Port Jersey Boulevard.

A new flyover ramp, where the ceremony was held, was also constructed from the interchange and Port Jersey Boulevard to Route 440 south. The existing traffic signal at East 53rd Street was removed, and the new roundabout will maintain permanent access to the 14A Interchange.

The project will enhance access not only for industrial truckers, but for the thousands of residents bound to live on MOTBY. The city will also benefit from fewer multi-ton trucks wearing and tearing Bayonne’s locally maintained roads and bridges, which could make for fewer potholes and a safer driving, walking, and cycling environment.

Open space

Dennis Collins Park on First Street, one of Bayonne’s largest parks, underwent a large renovation that was unveiled this spring. New playground equipment, exercise equipment, bean toss, a patio area for leisure and yoga, solar charging station, a new volleyball court, two resurfaced tennis courts, and two renovated dog parks are now available for all to use.

New playground equipment includes ADA-accessible swings, tot swings, a dual beam Kid Koaster, a standing rocker, and a Volta Inclusive Spinner.New exercise equipment includes ellipticals and steppers.

The long-term goal is to make most of the Bayonne shorefront accessible and walkable. City officials and the Port Authority have discussed the potential for a linear park underneath the Bayonne Bridge that would start at 5th Street and extend south to Dennis Collins Park and could include a walkway, bike path, parkland, playground, and other amenities. The walkway would extend north up Bayonne’s western shore to connect to 16th Street Park, Stephen R. Gregg Park, and Rutkowski Park. The linear park concept dovetails with the massive 44-acre Promenade development planned for the old Texaco site.

NJ Gov. Phil Murphy visited the city in May to help announce the start of the project, which will create a pathway and park connecting Bayonne High School to 16th Street Park, where a proposed miniature golf course would be located if a developer is found.

Last year, Stephen R. Gregg Park received $3.7 million worth of waterfront ballfields. Also known as Hudson County Park, it has more than 100 acres of open space that includes ballfields, tennis courts, basketball courts, bocce courts, horseshoe pits, and a running track. Now it’s resurfaced two full-size soccer fields and two mini soccer fields with turf, and added two full-size softball fields, all with new landscaping and LED lighting (the same lighting used by the University of Arizona).The park, which is maintained by the county, was improved using County Capital Funds.

A pond renovation in July and August of 2017 beautified the northern-most section near Rutkowski Park. The manmade pond, which was filling up with muck and leaves, was drained to add a new sodium bentonite liner layered with sand to prevent water from leaking into the soil, as well as coir logs that allow plants to grow around the pond’s edge, which features a new walkway.

Development has opened the door to public-private spaces that will be included in some large residential developments. Meanwhile, the McDonald’s on Broadway will be pushed back to make room for a private-public plaza on the corner of West 25th Street.

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