For as long as most people can remember, the bus station at 53rd Street and Broadway has always been something people see coming into or going out of Bayonne – a once bustling place that over time grew dingy and sour, giving a poor impression of a city once known for its industry. Now the city is seeking to redefine itself as a good place for shopping or doing business.
The reconstruction of that corner that includes the new TD Bank, the nearby Quick Chek, the redevelopment of the Bayonne Diner and the recently approved project to convert the bus depot into a new, larger, and environmentally friendly Walgreens, a franchise that promises to reinvent one of the principle gateways to the city.
“We all sort of grew up with the Bergenline Bus Depot,” said Vincent Virga, president of the Bayonne Chamber of Commerce. “For a long time, it was nothing but a depressing piece of land there, a blank piece of clay that will now be transformed, and that is a good sign of things to come in this town.”
Bayonne, he said, is the next step in transformation of the Hudson County Gold Coast, something that is inevitable and positive as business and residents seek greener pastures in an urban environment.
“Just like that transformation, gentrification that is coming down the river, it is inevitable that it will continue along our Broadway shopping district,” he said.
The Planning Board gave its blessing to the project in August, allowing a new, greener and larger Walgreen drug store to be constructed where the bus depot exists. It is part of a general cleanup of the area that shifts focus slightly to the more modern business model Bayonne has been seeking for some time.
“This slow but steady gentrification that is naturally occurring in this city,” Virga said. “People always want to see things improved and happening yesterday. But what I’m seeing is that developers see value in this great city of ours. To me that’s promising. We live here and sometimes I think we take for granted what we have. We have a gem in this town. You have to look at the vision of some of these outside developers, spending and investing their money in our town. People have to see that this is a positive for us.”
He said the slow trickling into Bayonne along the Gold Coast from Fort Lee through Hoboken and Jersey City is the start of something great, and this redevelopment along the uptown portion of Broadway is the start.
“This will definitely revitalize that section of our shopping district which has been has been a little bit depressing,” Virga said. “This is similar to what is going on in Journal Square. People need to have passion, people need to be inspired, and this is something that will help to do that, and the transformation that is occurring in that section is going to be very good for Bayonne in general. This is good from a perception view point, it’s good from a pride standpoint and that’s the key. People have to believe there is possibility and hope in this town, and that’s what they see when entities like that are willing to invest in Bayonne.”
The Walgreens will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, comparable to a number of businesses in the area, including Quick Chek and the Broadway Diner. The new drug store will also bring about 30 new jobs to the city, and will result in the demolition of the current building, cleaning up or capping of the contamination that is associated with the property’s long use for automotive repair, such as leaking fuel tanks and other sources.
“Just like that transformation, gentrification that is coming down the river, it is inevitable that it will continue along our Broadway shopping district.” – Vincent Virga
This is one of the sites identified for Brownfield’s development under the city’s scattered site redevelopment plan.
An entirely new building will be constructed on the site, and will include landscaping, installation of lights and various barriers, and provide a pedestrian sidewalk to replace the deteriorated one that currently exists there.
Bradley G. Cleverley, engineer for developing the construction plan and environmental plan, said the former bus garage is currently being used for car maintenance and repair and is also a two-story office building which is currently vacant.
“As part of the development, the existing buildings will be demolished, the deteriorated asphalt parking lot will be removed, and the sidewalk and curb will also be removed,” he said. “The site plan will include a new Walgreens pharmacy, a new parking lot will be installed around the pharmacy, and new curb along Broadway and East 53rd Street. In addition, the uncontrolled access points to Broadway and East 53rd Street will be eliminated and a single entrance will be created on both streets.”
Pedestrians will also have access through an entrance at the corner.
The Walgreens will have a drive-thru window and will continue to provide access to neighboring Burger King through an easement off East 53rd as well as access from Broadway.
In an effort to further increase the environmental attractiveness of the site, street trees that do not exist now will be planted into some of the islands along the parking lot. Awnings will be installed over the glass front windows of the store to reduce some of the energy costs associated with natural sunlight and keeping the building cool, Cleverley said.
“I love the fact that this Walgreens is going there,” said Virga. “There is a transformation happening in Bayonne right beneath our feet and it’s going to be great to watch and see it.”