The 285 acre redevelopment site - most of which currently lacks sewage service, electricity or running water except in very limited locations - was once slated for major housing development, but for numerous reasons, including resistance from the town of Secaucus, the housing never came. But now that area could now see massive improvements under the newly-proposed redevelopment plan.
Hub Expo is looking to build on a 60-acre site commonly called the Gallo Tract, which at one time had been considered for 2,000 residential units.The property is just East of Laurel Hill County Park along the Hackensack River. The one-story structure would include a convention center, meeting rooms, and related facilities, HMDC officials said, noting that no restaurant or hotel has yet been proposed as part of the project.
The site, a weed-infested former dumpsite for Jersey City's incinerator ash and former site of an asphalt plant, is part of a 285-acre area that was rezoned for redevelopment in 1999.
Representatives from Hub Expo are calling the project Gateway Expo and Convention Center at the Meadowlands, and say it is being designed to provide large shows.
Exhibits and meetings
The Gateway Hub as proposed will have 500,000 square feet of exhibit space and 60,000 square feet of meeting space, of which 10,000 could be used for a ballroom.
The state-of-the-art exhibition facility will be the largest privately-owned exhibit hall in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area, and will allow for shows that are currently unable to find available space or dates in the metro area.
In addition to its abundant exhibition space, meeting space and on site parking, the facility is located off I-95 (the New Jersey Turnpike), and near Routes 1, 3 and 9, and is minutes away from the Holland Tunnel. The Gateway Expo is scheduled to be completed by Spring 2002 - although it could be put off until Fall, 2002.
"We want to open it in conjunction with the opening of the rail transfer station," said Joseph J Corcoran, President of Hub Expo Center, Inc. "NJ Transit will be making road improvements and we're not sure when those improvement will be completed."
"Transfer station makes it all happen," said Charles A. Tese, vice president of Hub Expo Inc. "NJ Transit will be moving the railroad bridge over and opening up New County Road."
The Expo Center will take 18 months to complete, and Corcoran said the staff will date the start of construction so as to complete the Expo when the rail station opens.
"We could build it in two stages," Tese said. "We might put up a building that has 375,000 square feet of exposition and 15,000 square feet of meeting space, and then in a year, build the rest. But we could build it all. It all depends on investments."
First project under the new redevelopment zone
HUB Expo Centers, Inc. is affiliated with Corcoran Jennison Companies, an internationally renowned development company. Over the last two years, the HMDC agreed to rezone the area to light industrial, eliminating the housing component from its own master plan. Part of the original tract included a section that has now been used to double the size of the county park.
Proposed uses under the redevelopment plan include the convention center, warehouses, retail stores, TV studios, hotels, restaurants and other similar business. The redevelopment plan would also require a marina to be built, because under an HMDC mandate, any project that includes riverside development must also have a water recreation element included. The facility will include several boat slips on the Hackensack River to meet the requirement for water recreation use, Corcoran said.
"We have to include a 28-slip dock and a river walk that ties into the park," Tese said.
Corcoran said the Secaucus Rail Transfer Station (recently renamed after Senator Frank Lautenberg) is key to the project, allowing people to come from Manhattan within six minutes.
"The Turnpike Authority will also be installing an exit there," he said.
While no hotel rooms are presently included in the plans, Secaucus' 16 other hotels, as well as those hotels planned for the top of the train station, make the location ideal. Corcoran said the project could include 250-room hotel later. Tese said this could be expanded to 500 rooms if the project draws as much interest as the company believes.
Because of the previous use of the property for asphalt, the federal government has listed it as a brownfields site, one that will allow the Expo project to quality for state and federal funding towards cleanup costs. But Tese said Hub Expo would have to put the money up first and get refunded later.
Corcoran said the facility will have a single level parking lot, which will help cap the majority of the industrial property.
An expo center of a different kind
As a private exposition center, the Hub Expo brings a different approach to the convention business, Corcoran said. Facilities like the Javits Center in New York are owned and operated by the city. Most such convention centers are.
"They are designed to bring in business from outside the region," Corcoran said.
Shows are not merely calculated by how large they are or when they ask for space, but also by the number of hotel rooms they might use and other financial benefits the show brings to the city. This leaves many of the local and regional shows out, said Tese, who served as marketing director at the Javits Center for eight years.
While the shows brought into the Hub Expo will have a benefit on the local community, they may not have the same impact as a show from outside the region.
"When a city builds a convention center, it is looking to attract people from outside the region to stay in its hotels, eat meals in its restaurants, etc," Corcoran said. "There is a whole group of shows that don't fit that criteria although they also have a positive impact on the local economy. These are regional shows."
"We'll be employing from 300 to 1,000 people depending on the show," Tese said.
The Hub Expo will handle regional shows that will draw people from New Jersey or the Metropolitan area.
"Instead of renting hotel rooms, people may drive to the show," Corcoran said. "That kind of show would not be considered at the Javits Center."
Corcoran said people at the company's centers in Boston and Virginia requested a regional center, and an examination of the local market showed a need for it.
"New Jersey is a phenomenal market," Corcoran said. "We can't wait to get in there."
Shows in the Hub Expo will run from three to seven days. The busy months are January, February, March, September and October.
"The other months we try to fit in what we can," Corcoran said. "Many of these may have an entertainment element such as the Science Fiction Expo we had at our Bayside Exposition center in Boston."
Tese estimated about 180 days of show time with about 70 shows per year. Each show can bring in as many as 10,000 people.
The show will also have some retail element. People who come to the show may be able to purchase items.
Hub Expo, Inc. started operating the Boston facility in 1983, and Corcoran said the company will bring its accumulated knowledge for management to Secaucus with the construction of the Meadowlands Hub.
Tese said Mayor Dennis Elwell has helped create a receptive atmosphere for the development.
Elwell said, during a telephone interview, that he had not yet seen the plans as presented to the HMDC. But he said the project presents "an exciting opportunity" to develop the extreme south end of Secaucus.
"This could help take some of our lowest tax ratables and turn it into our highest," Elwell said. "Many of the tax appeals we had to pay in the last eight years have come from that area. We could wind up with a cleaner, better ratable, and one that will help make Secaucus an even better community in which to live."