On April 1, 2009, a remarkable thing will happen on the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor (formerly the Military Ocean Terminal). Trammell Crow developers will open its sales office with the expectation that by June, residents will move into the first of the 577 apartments being built there.
This means that for the first time since the U.S. Army closed the base in the early 1990s, people will be living on the 432-acre site, opening a new era for Bayonne.
This remarkable moment arrives at a critical time for Bayonne, when the economy of the country is in crisis and the city faces some of the most serious fiscal challenges in its history.
For Christopher Patella, who took over as executive director of the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority last month, the opening of the base to residents for the first time is the beginning of a long anticipated renaissance in the city, the first small step toward the realization of a dream, marking significant progress at a time when the city most needs it.
In some ways, 2009 marks a new beginning for development at the former MOTBY, as Patella and the BLRA commissioners readjust the goals to meet contemporary situations.
Associated with the arrival of the MOTBY’s first residents, ferry service from there to New York City is also expected to begin in April.
Patella said the BLRA just awarded contracts for the construction of two permanent soccer fields near the new development and expects work to begin on a variety of small parks that will help transform that portion of the former base into a setting with a more residential feel.
As work continues on other portions of the base, the BLRA intends to install new fencing and other aesthetic features to separate residential units from the continued construction.
Meanwhile, negotiations continue between Fidelco/Roseland Realty and Bayonne Bay Associations, two firms who have conditional agreements for development of portions of two of the six development districts on MOTBY, with the hope of getting them closer to construction.
Patella admitted the downturn in the national economy has caused some delays as both companies are looking to adjust their agreement to construct rental units rather than for sale units, putting them in conflict with Trammel Crow, who until now believed its company would be the exclusive developer of rental units.
Patella believes the matter will be resolved as to allow development to continue in the future.
Bayonne could benefit significantly from the new federal stimulus package, which is designed to fund projects that are “shovel ready.”
“We’re all set to go,” Patella said.
Several weeks ago, Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith went to Washington, D.C. to meet with U.S. senators Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg, as well as Rep. Albio Sires, to lobby for needed funding to help complete the infrastructure improvements on MOTBY. Patella believes this has put Bayonne in a good position to receive that funding.
Development proposals for the remaining property
The BLRA is also currently reviewing six proposals made for developing the remaining three development districts.
“We have reviewed three and are in the process of reviewing the other three,” he said.
Once they are evaluated as to whether they fit in with the redevelopment plans, the BLRA will ask the developers to present more detailed plans for a possible future presentation before the BLRA board.
These plans will shape out the future of the most lucrative portion of the former base, including The Loft, The Landing and the Point districts, designed in part to resemble high-rise office, commercial and apartment complexes near Battery Park City in Manhattan.
Royal Caribbean to unveil new berth
The official unveiling of the newly renovated docking berth for Royal Caribbean’s cruise ship operations is scheduled for March 27. The new berth is located near the tip of the Peninsula, and takes advantage of the recent federal dredging of New York Harbor – which allows cruise ships to sail in and out more easily.
The opening of the new berth also allows PortsAmerica to operate its car import/export facility in the Maritime District on the MOTBY.
Because of an ongoing legal dispute with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which contends it has a legal right to the Maritime District, PortsAmerica has not fully geared up its operations there. Patella said one of his goals is to iron out these legal issues and come to some positive resolution in the near future.
But overall, Patella said, his ultimate goal is to get the 432 acres of MOTBY on the tax rolls in order to generate tax revenues for the city and jobs for area residents.
Two other large properties under BLRA management include the Texaco property near the Bayonne Bridge, a large former oil tank site that is being redeveloped by Kaplan Industries. Although Kaplan has some grand plans for the site, these are subject to the flux and flow of the real estate economy, which means for the near future, they are on hold.
This may not be true for a site in southeastern Bayonne called the Standard Oil property, which the BLRA is currently trying to sell off.
“We got two bids for the property,” Patella said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.