Week of August 27, 2001
  Snapshot from the Field
Bayonne, N.J. demolition
$32 Billion New Jersey Redevelopment Gets Green Light

Site Selection Executive Editor of Interactive Publishing

BAYONNE, N.J. -- This was one big vote.
        Vincent Lo Re Jr., president of the Bayonne (N.J.) City Council, called it "clearly the most important thing we will do in our terms."
Even before the city council's ratification, demolition (pictured above) had begun
on some of the 75 buildings on-site at the closed Bayonne Military Ocean Terminal.

        Councilwoman Mary Jane Desmond went further, calling the vote "the most significant action any Bayonne City Council has taken in the last 100 years." What the Bayonne City Council (www.bayonnenj.org/council.htm) was voting on was a massive mixed-use redevelopment plan for the 437-acre (175-hecatre) Bayonne Military Ocean Terminal (BMOT), a closed federal facility. Voting unanimously, the council on Aug. 23 ratified the multifaceted plan, which has a price tag estimated at a whopping US$32 billion. Vincent Lo Re
        The project also has a mother lode of location, location, location. Its projected 18 million sq. ft. (1.67 million sq. m.) of mixed-use space in northern New Jersey sits in the New York Harbor, three miles (4.8 km.) southeast of Newark, seven miles (11.3 km.) from Manhattan. The Statue of Liberty and Manhattan's skyline are part of the view from the BMOT in Bayonne, a city of some 65,000.

"This is not the end, but it is the end of the beginning." City Council President Lo Re (left) said of ratification of the $32 billion waterfront redevelopment plan.

        Stretching some 2.5 miles (four km.) east to west and a third of a mile (0.53 km.) north to south, the BMOT sits squarely in New Jersey's "Gold Coast," an 18-mile (29-km.) stretch running from Bayonne to Fort Lee. Manhattan's high prices and its dearth of apartments have helped make that stretch of Hudson River waterfront a hot development property.

Wide-Ranging Plan Would Create 15,000 Jobs

Developed by the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority (BLRA at www.bayonnenj.org/lra), the ratified BMOT redevelopment plan limns an uncommonly broad range of uses. It envisions developing six distinct districts: Harbor Station, Bayonne Village, the Landing, the Loft District, Bayonne Point and the Maritime Industrial District.
        Included in those districts will be office space, a port facility, low-rise townhouses, family housing, a retail complex, a waterfront marina, movie production facilities and a hotel for airplane pilots and flight attendants. Interspersed in that diverse development will be green spaces and athletic fields.
        The project promises to be a field of dreams for job generation. BLRA officials estimated that the development will create 15,000 permanent jobs.
        The redevelopment's lack of controversy has perhaps been indicative of its huge economic promise. The 200 longshoremen who turned out to demonstrate their support of the port facility were by far the largest contingent at the Bayonne City Council's standing-room-only vote. But once the BMOT plan was approved, the longshoremen filed out en masse. Only a handful of local residents remained for the rest of the meeting.

Plan Six Years in Making

Bayonne light railThe plan had been six years in the making. In 1995, the Base Realignment and Closure Committee closed the BMOT, which once employed 2,500. Leonard Kiczek, then Bayonne's mayor, formed a 12-member commission on base reuse.
        By 1998, current Mayor Joseph Doria had formed the seven-person Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority. The BMOT flag, however, wasn't lowered for a final time until the closing ceremony on Sept. 23, 1999.

Light rail links (pictured above) connecting at the redevelopment's west side augur well for the project's future.

        Since then, the base has had a sort of shadow existence. Bayonne is the BMOT's caretaker, but not yet its owner. The U.S. Army will turn over much of the BMOT to the city in September, BLRA members said. The BMOT's remaining acreage, which still has environmental issues, will probably be turned over by the end of 2001.
        Meanwhile, the BLRA has been moving apace. Demolition has already begun on some of the 75 on-site buildings, and a network street grid is in place. The board has also exercised its right to offer "temporary leases." Some of the lessees are decidedly high profile: "Oz," an HBO series, is filming on-site, as is Universal film's Ron Howard-directed "A Beautiful Mind," starring Russell Crowe.

20- to 30-Year Time Frame

Even after the army turns over ownership, the redevelopment won't happen overnight. The massive project will unfold over a 20- to 30-year span, BLRA members said.
        The project's quality mass transit links augur well for its success. The 20-mile (32-km.) Bergen-Hudson light rail system is now in place, with 32 stations passing through 600,000 people between Bayonne and downtown Jersey City. The system stops on BMOT's west side. In addition, the Path train line links Jersey City to downtown and midtown Manhattan for a $1 ride.
        The project's transit links will get even better. Light rail will soon extend to NewPort Centre, reach Hoboken and then extend to Ridgefield in Bergen County.
        Such strong transit links add up to ready labor access. Not to mention consumers - a major concern in a state whose $54,226 figure in the 2000 census ranked No. 1 in U.S. median household income.
        Lo Re may have hit the zeitgeist on the head before he cast the final vote in the project's unanimous approval.
        "This is not the end," he said, "but it is the end of the beginning."


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