Hoping to piggy-back off NJ Transit’s proposed development over train tracks in Hoboken and nudge NJ Transit to propose a similar project for above the parking lot areas near the 34th Street Light Rail Station in Bayonne, the City Council voted on Dec. 12 to send that portion of the 2006 Scattered Sites Redevelopment Plan back to the Bayonne Planning Board to be tweaked.
The city designated the two underutilized parking lots near the 34th Light Rail Street Station for redevelopment for more transit-oriented use akin to the Transit Village concept used in other parts of the state near transportation hubs.
“These are parcels that are part of the station property itself,” said City Planner John Fussa. “It’s those parcels that are currently being used by NJ transit for its surface commuter parking.”
When first proposed in 2006, the city had hoped for this site to be used for residential development tied into a concept for residential development proposed for the nearby Military Ocean Terminal.
With the change of use of the MOTBY changing to container port operations as a result of a sale of a portion of that property to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and changes in the economy that has many developers looking more towards construction of rental units rather than for sale units, the city is seeking to redefine what kind of development might be proposed for the Light Rail station parking lot, possibly even a hotel that could service the cruise port operations still underway on MOTBY.
“NJ transit is sitting in the cat bird’s seat.” – John Fussa
Currently the station has two surface parking lots that are not fully used. Most of the traffic coming from Staten Island is for the light rail, and most park at the more easily accessible 22nd Street Station lot.
City officials believe the property would be better used if the parking could be stacked as either a separate structure connected to development or underneath a building over the lots that that sit astride Prospect Avenue.
“This is already an area in need of redevelopment. There is already an adopted redevelopment plan, the City Council adopted that in January 2006,” Fussa said. “So we’re revisiting that in the hopes there will be a transit oriented project for that site. We will review the investigation to make sure it is compliant with state law, as it currently stands since it has been six or so years since the council adopted the investigation. The redevelopment plan which already exists will be amended to reflect this kind of usage and the city’s goals and objectives for a transit oriented development there.”
About a year ago, NJ Transit put out requests for proposals for the redevelopment of parking lots near its facilities throughout the state, for lease or sale or redevelopment.
“We realize that the redevelopment plan needs to reflect the fact the world has changed from an economic and financial point of view to address some of the changes in the housing market,” Fussa said.
While it remains to be seen if this will mean a shift from for sale residential units to rental, Fussa said that is largely what is happening in the market these days.
“Most new housing developments are rental varieties,” he said. “It is premature to say what that will be. It has all kinds of implications to density, parking, and amenities. The idea here is to address the changed conditions from when the plan was adopted in early 2006, including financial and housing markets and to provide a plan we feel will be feasible going forward. NJ Transit is sitting in the cat bird’s seat – to quote Red Barber – they own the property. It’s their facility. They would certainly have to be a partner.