"We were not interested in the area currently being prepared for development, but in another piece that is scheduled later," he said during a telephone interview. "But I wanted to take a closer look at the area."
Redevelopment plans call for the former Military Ocean Terminal to have five distinct development areas, each with different characteristics.
The redevelopment plan envisions developing six distinct districts: Harbor Station, Bayonne Bay, the Landing, the Loft District, Bayonne Point, and the Maritime Industrial District. Each district will have its own varying land uses, density, and building heights. Uses within these districts will include a variety of residential, commercial, civic, entertainment, maritime, recreational, and public transit facilities. The Peninsula will be a vibrant mixed-use community offering a variety of employment, housing, recreation, and entertainment opportunities.
According to the plan, there could be as many as 6,700 housing units, 1.5 million sq. ft. of office space, 345,000 sq. ft. of retail space, 750 hotel rooms, 465,000 sq. ft. of entertainment and cultural space and up to 245,000 sq. ft. of civic space. Actual land use and density will be driven by market demand through several real estate cycles.
The first area that is slated to begin actually physical development within the next year in a half is the Harbor Side District, the area close to Route 440 and nearest older sections of Bayonne as well as the Hudson Bergen Light Rail stations.
Fidelco, a regional realty company, recently brought on two developments Roseland Associates and Prudential Investments, to develop the Harbor Side District, which is expected to receive its first residents within two and half years.
McCann said Roseland tends to build rental properties, but in Bayonne will be constructing condos for sale.
Looking ahead at the next phase
The next area, to which several dozen developers came to look at - including McCann - is the Bayonne Bay area, a residential area that would be next on the development schedule and an area bordered in part by a cove on the southern side of the peninsula.
The redevelopment plan that was designed for the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority last year and approved by the City Council earlier this year, would see about 1,700 residential units constructed on a 65 acre site.
The BLRA is has set a minimum price for the land at $60 million.
"But we're hoping to get much more than that," said Council President Vincent Lo Re, who is also a member of the BLRA.
Developers have until July 29 to make an offer. They would have up to 10 years to build, although could apply for a five year extension. The contract is expected to be awarded in September if all goes well.
McCann said he had come to the site representing several developers who were interested in taking on a percentage of the residential development up to about 150 homes.
During the phone interview, however, McCann looked at the project as a former public official who had helped set the foundations for similar development in Jersey City, noting that Bayonne is currently the largest redevelopment project on the East Cast, and offered his advice based on his experiences in Jersey City.
First, he cautioned officials against awarding the contract for the development to a firm with another ongoing project in the Metropolitan area.
"You want any developer to see this as the number one priority," he said. "If they have another project going on in the area that will be number one."
This is a lesson he said he learned from Jersey City, where after 27 years, more than 30 percent of the Newport development site is still undeveloped.
He also said giving the bid to a local developer, either from Bayonne or New Jersey, would likely benefit the project because the developer could be held more accountable than if the main office was some place across the country.
Although he did not know what criteria the BLRA would use in evaluating the eventual development, he said past experience showed that price alone would not be the sole determining factor. While the BLRA would like to get more than the $60 million minimum bid, McCann said how quickly the company can get started in actual development would also figure into the decision.
"Design is important," he said. "The town wants to certain percentage for restricted age for an older population. The problem is marketing. There may not be enough people who fit the age restriction."
Age restrictions could be a mistake
McCann said Bayonne oldest average age in the county.
"The city is going to want to bring in younger people to raise families, but if they only providing housing for senior citizens, then eventually the city will die."
Part of the reason communities tend to shy away from seeking out younger people is the cost of education.
"They don't want pay education costs," he said. "But answer is developing waterfront."
While the new development will not be a gated community, it will change the character of Bayonne to some degree, McCann admitted.
"But the city should embrace it," he said. "It will success because of the light rail access."
McCann can't help taking a little credit for the future success of this development.
"There wouldn't be water front development in Bayonne if Jersey City hadn't done it first," he said. "Bayonne's development will succeed because of Jersey City has succeeded, one of the advantages Bayonne has is that it has and seen what Jersey City has done. Bayonne can pick and choose what it likes and what it doesn't like, and what worked over what didn't."
The Bayonne Bay District, which McCann is looking at, calls for what is called mid-rise development, as opposed to one and two story homes. In making a bid, the companies he represents will have a lot of things to evaluate such as the affordable housing component required under state law.
"What is their plan as far as affordable housing?" he asked. "Will developers have to build within the complex, within the city or trade to another community such as Jersey City? In this phase there must be 200 units."
McCann said the BLRA will be faced with deciding what is the best deal for the city.
"The best deal wins, but what is the best deal? That is the crux of this," he said.
Contact Al Sullivan at email@example.com