8th Street renaissance
State plan would revitalize downtown corridor
by Joseph Passantino
Reporter staff writer
Feb 25, 2015 | 5928 views | 0 0 comments | 86 86 recommendations | email to a friend | print
FOCAL POINT – The 8th Street Station on the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line is the center of the redevelopment effort.
FOCAL POINT – The 8th Street Station on the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line is the center of the redevelopment effort.
GUIDING LIGHT – City Planner Sue Mack spoke on behalf of the plan at the most recent Planning Board meeting.
GUIDING LIGHT – City Planner Sue Mack spoke on behalf of the plan at the most recent Planning Board meeting.
A state plan for the revitalization of the 8th Street Hudson-Bergen Light Rail station and surrounding areas could mean an increased number of downtown businesses, utilization of now-dormant lots, and a multi-story residential tower that could be seen from miles away.

The City of Bayonne 8th Street Station Rehabilitation Area Plan was prepared by the Local Planning Services Department of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs for Bayonne and is currently wending its way through city boards. On Feb. 18, the City Council, by a 5-0 vote, authorized the Planning Board, in conjunction with the LPS to prepare and review a rehabilitation plan for the 8th Street area in accordance with the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law.

The next stop for the plan is a special Planning Board meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 25, according to Sue Mack, Bayonne city planner. Mack will be shepherding the proposal through the March 18 City Council caucus and then the March 25 council regular meeting for possible adoption.

The 138-page plan was revised as recently as Feb. 3, and is still a work in progress, officials said.

The plan was requested by the city to seek ideas for developing five different areas around the 8th Street transportation hub, as far east as Broadway, and as far west as an underutilized strip mall bordering Newark Bay.

“We had a whole team of state planners working on this Eighth Street plan,” Mack said.

A large focus of the plan centers around the redevelopment of an empty lot on North Street which used to house a supermarket.

The plan has garnered the interest of some of the city’s most prolific developers, including the Alessi Group, Lance Lucarelli and John Cali, who are interested in the 26 North Street property, former state senator Jim Dugan, and others.

“Everyone's knocking on the door,” Mack said.

Plans could include a shopping center and assisted living facility at the old Brass Foundry site on Avenue A by the entry to the Bayonne Bridge.

Some of the plan would create structures never before seen in the city.

“Some of it’s interesting,” Mack said. “They’re possibly allowing for high heights. It’s a little more innovative than we're used to here in Bayonne.”

Community Affairs spokeswoman Tammori Petty said the plan would allow buildings originally zoned for three stories to go as high as five.

But Mack said the plan includes a “community density bonus,” where a building could go much higher.

“They say you can go 14 stories,” Mack said. “And if you do x, y, and z, then we’ll let you go to 22. The state has listed what you can do to get there.”

The 22-story height is what John Cali and his associates are hoping for. Cali and Lucarelli, already partners in multiple real estate projects, are seeking to develop a multi-story structure, complete with modern amenities to lure young, urban professionals to Bayonne.

“We hope to build about 340 apartments in what we think is a signature building for Bayonne,” Cali said. “We think it’s a great location, because of the preference of young professionals these days wanting to be near mass transit, and it’s right on the light rail stop.”

Cali’s vision includes a 22-story tower, with five levels of parking and the remainder residential. There would also be some retail space in the bottom parking level.

“I think it would a signature landmark for Bayonne. It would be visible for miles, if we’re allowed to build this,” Cali said. “It would be like two office towers in New Brunswick. What New Jersey knows as an entry to New Brunswick, I think could be similar for Bayonne; something seen from highways a long distance away.”

Building amenities might include a rooftop patio with views of the city, a “water feature” of some type, furniture, and outdoor grill.

“At the Light Rail, we would probably have that higher amenity deck not on the roof, but maybe midway up, where you have 360-degree views and a full glass perimeter,” Cali said.

He believes the city as a whole would prosper from his proposed development.

“If successful, it will bring business and support for the local businesses in Bayonne; restaurants, bars, food, you name it, from those renters,” Cali said. “I think it would be a positive for the city.”

There would be other benefits to the city that would come with the redevelopment, according to Mack. They would include street improvements and murals.

“I think it would be a positive for the city.” – John Cali
Years in the making

Petty said her department agreed to a scope of services with Bayonne in late 2012 and started the effort then. A team of community planners was assigned to the project and worked closely with the city over a two-year period to produce the plan.

Part of the thinking was to capitalize on the $100 million the state had just spent to extend the Light Rail system one mile.

“Constructing the 8th Street Light Rail Station consequently encouraged investment around the surrounding area,” Petty said.

The study area was defined as areas within walking distance of the station. The state solicited community input with focus-group analysis of the strengths, issues and opportunities for the study areas with about 35 local stakeholders.

The state published the results of the focus group sessions in 2013 and those recommendations are included in the rehabilitation plan. The results were used to inform Local Planning Services about issues and solutions the plan should address.

Benefits of the plan

Petty said there are many anticipated benefits of the proposal.

The plan will call for new zoning around the 8th Street station, which will protect existing residential neighborhoods and encourage commercial activity and new investment along Broadway. It will also create mixed use for vacant and underutilized properties near the station. “The implementation of the plan’s recommendations will attract new ratables for the city, encourage ridership on the Hudson Light Rail system, and generate community improvements around the station,” Petty said.

The plan will also provide for rehabilitation of the Bayview Shopping Center area into a mixed-use residential neighborhood, and allow for more commercial uses along the Broadway commercial corridor.

Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.To comment on this story online visit www.hudsonreporter.com.
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