Once touted as a possible developer for all 432 acres of the former Military Ocean Terminal of Bayonne (MOTBY), Fidelco Bayonne HSN, LLC will step aside to make way for a new proposed development for the Harbor Station district, one of the districts in what will be known as the Peninsula development.
Fidelco’s removal from that district is part of a legal agreement that ends a lawsuit the company brought against the city.
Chris Patella, executive director of the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority, announced last week that the BLRA had settled their longstanding lawsuit with Fidelco, which has had an agreement with the BLRA since 2005 to build residential for sale units in the Harbor State section.
When the economy changed, Fidelco wanted to build rentals instead. The BLRA refused to amend the agreement to allow for rental units, and Fidelco filed suit.
“The people of Bayonne have been frustrated with the lack of progress during past administrations.” – Mayor Mark Smith
Harbor Station, the westernmost district on the former MOTBY, is a 102-acre site along Route 440 near the New Jersey Turnpike and the Hudson Bergen Light Rail Station. It is considered the gateway to the rest of 432-acre MOBTY. The original redevelopment plan called for a mixed use of low to mid-rising housing, neighborhood retail, office space, entertainment and civic facilities.
Restarts stalled redevelopment
Settling the suit puts the city on the fast track for a new redevelopment plan, which has been reviewed by the Bayonne Planning Board. The City Council introduced an ordinance changing the redevelopment designation in anticipation of the Planning Board’s report.
City officials anticipate the unveiling of a proposed project shortly for the site that could break ground this year.
Mayor Mark Smith hailed the settlement as an opportunity to remove the logjam that was hampering redevelopment at the Peninsula.
“I have long held the belief that Bayonne needs jobs and tax ratables,” he said. “The switch from housing to retail development addresses these two needs without increasing demand on city services.”
The mayor commented that the BLRA commissioners and Director Patella have been working hard to jumpstart the redevelopment at the Peninsula for the past year.
“The people of Bayonne have been frustrated with the lack of progress during past administrations. I have been frustrated as well,” Smith said. “I am delighted that we now have a plan to move forward.”
Fidelco had been planning to build a new residential community with for-sale townhomes and condo flats when the residential real estate market collapsed. They then asked the BLRA to permit them to build rental units, which conflicted with the redevelopment plan and agreements with other developers.
Peninsula Infrastructure Partners has asked the BLRA board to allow different sorts of development other than the residential previously allowed. The BLRA agreed and asked the City Council to begin the process of amending the plan, which requires that the Planning Board review the suggested changes and offer their opinion to the City Council.
“More than anything, we are interested in getting something built at the Peninsula,” said Patella in supporting the settlement and plan revisions. “The people of Bayonne have waited far too long for something to happen. This new proposed plan will bring much needed jobs and tax ratables to our city. We’ve been working on this for over a year, and it’s good to see that progress is finally in sight.”
Pulling the thorn at last
Fidelco has been a political thorn in the side for several administrations, as critics blasted the city for inaction. As part of his campaign pledge in 2008, Smith vowed to get redevelopment started again at this site as well as other sites around the city. Smith said his office is currently looking at other redevelopment sites, including Broadway corridor sites from 19th to 22nd streets, to start generating movement on that vital area as well.
Harbor Station becomes even more important as the BLRA makes moves to alter the entrance to the MOTBY. Construction of a new entrance just north of the existing entrance on Route 440 is nearly complete, and the city is poised to unveil it shortly as the new traffic signal system becomes active.
All non-truck traffic onto the Peninsula will use this entrance, while truck traffic will use a new northern exit/entrance onto Pulaski Street.