New businesses have shown a strong interest in the city within the last year. Total Safety Company (TSC) moved to Bayonne, bringing more than 100 new jobs. Other businesses that have opened here include A&W Steakhouse, Bayonne Energy Center, Manhattan Bagel, Otaiko Restaurant, Verizon Store, and Visionworks.
Businesses that are already here are improving their facilities. Royal Wine Corporation has selected Bayonne to be the site of its world headquarters, building a new warehouse at East 22nd Street and Avenue J. Gel Spice is expanding with the help of an Urban Enterprise Zone loan, adding more space and hiring more people.
Among the types of businesses thriving are personal services, restaurants, and medical.
Businesses excited about 2014
Michael Bologh, owner of Jerry’s Drug & Surgical Supply on Broadway, thinks his store will have a good year, but not necessarily because the economy’s turning.
“It’s still pretty good,” he said of his business. “It’s a digital world these days. But I find good customer service is always needed. People always want to get their money’s worth. Brick and mortar service never goes out of style.”
Bologh said his shop has never lost its personal touch, and that good economy or bad, that can’t hurt his business.
“We have to go out of our way for customers. We always have,” Bologh said. “And in the complex nature of business today, good customer service always pays off.”
Also in an aging population, he expects his business will always be good. He said the Affordable Care Act is going to affect his business, but he’s not quite sure how.
“It is, but we haven’t felt the effect of it yet,” he said.
About a mile down Broadway, Garden State Community Bank is expecting a banner year.
“In Bayonne, providing the community with the products and services they need, along with convenience, and an exceptional banking experience, is our goal,” said branch manager Ferdinand Bright. “We are part of the local landscape and take the trust that comes with that very seriously. By providing the people of Bayonne with the quality service they deserve in 2014, we will continue to be the bank that people in Bayonne rely on and turn to.”
Just a few doors away on Broadway at the Mona Lisa pizzeria, business is great, and getting better.
“I love it down here,” said owner Chris Cocchi. “This is the best part of Bayonne. “It’s very family oriented. It’s repeat business. We know people by first names.”
With good food and reasonable prices, Cocchi expects 2014 to surpass all previous years.
Most Bayonne residents and business people feel that a strong Broadway retail area is pivotal to the city not only surviving, but also growing. So the Smith administration says help is on the way
for the main shopping district.
Amid all these development plans, Broadway, Bayonne’s focal point for shopping for decades, will not be forgotten, the administration pledges.
Earlier this year, Mayor Smith approved the commissioning of a redevelopment study for an underutilized portion of Broadway, with the expectation that a developer be identified for the redevelopment of an entire city block, Business Administrator Stephen Gallo said, referring to 23rd to 24th streets. On March 21, it was announced that the city was expanding the Broadway redevelopment area that was already approved.
Mayor Smith said that the city council approved an administration proposal to expand the proposed study area that is bounded by the west side of Broadway, West 23rd street, West 24th Street, and Del Monte Drive.
At its meeting on March 19, the council backed a resolution to add a city-owned parking lot to that area. The parking lot is located to the rear of the properties that front on the west side of Broadway between West 23rd and 24th streets.
Since January, the city has received several inquiries from prospective developers about the possibility of adding the parking lot to the redevelopment study.
“Our administration heard from several real estate developers that adding the existing parking lot to the proposed redevelopment area would make the properties a more attractive combination for them,” Smith said. “Since we are eager to jumpstart development in that part of Broadway, we recommended to the council that it add the parking lot to the redevelopment study.”
Real estate doing well again
An important bellwether of any city’s business health—real estate—is showing signs of a strong comeback in the city, according to Gallo.
“This year for the first time since the national recession, Bayonne property values have increased,” he said. “Values are up by 2.5 percent. This modest increase is a harbinger of things to come and the Smith administration has Bayonne well positioned to take advantage of the increasing desire of people to live in a rich urban environment with a sound public transportation infrastructure.”
Developers are interested
Developers’ renewed interest in Bayonne, as well as work on projects already greenlighted, will be among the high points of 2014 for the city.
“Major developers’ interest in Bayonne will begin to bear fruit,” Smith said earlier this year. “Projects that will change the face of Bayonne—that were in the planning stages in 2013—begin construction this year.”
The Maidenform Silklofts project is recruiting tenants; Skyhail Development will proceed with new residential buildings on the north and south sides of East 22nd Street on Avenue E, by the light rail station; and the John Cali project across from the Stephen R. Gregg Park at West 46th Street is under construction.
The Kaplan Organization’s Camelot Project on the Boulevard at West 3rd Street is about ready to receive tenants.
“Many other major projects are in the pipeline right behind these,” Smith said. “Each of these new apartment buildings will add tax ratables and new residents to our community, enhancing vibrancy and diversity, and creating a critical mass of people who will demand retail and commercial services, providing opportunities for small businesses in town.”
Development will restart at the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor, while construction at the Harbor Station North District is at the ready.
Plans for Harbor Station South will move forward as well, according to city officials. Following a seminar held in the fall, developers responded to the city with “high-level” concepts representing what they would like to build there.
“The mayor and city council will select the best proposals and negotiate with the qualified developers to select a project, or projects, for the district,” Gallo said.
The city was still mulling over those proposals this month.
Additional Route 440 growth anticipated
The city is currently working with companies to develop the southernmost portion of the Bayonne Crossings Shopping Center, where a recycling facility now stands, into retail shops. Officials are also working to develop vacant and underused land on the west side of the highway, between 22nd and 30th streets, into stores and other commercial facilities.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.