A development wish list Planning Board unveils scattered site plan

With the hopes of attracting development to various parcels of vacant or underused properties, the Bayonne Planning Board unveiled a scattered site plan on Dec. 7 for almost three dozen sites throughout the city.

Earlier this year, the city invited developers to come in for a day-long tour of properties that might be upgraded. By establishing a plan, the city provides additional incentives that would encourage developers further.

Michael O’Connor, director of the Bayonne Economic Development Corporation, called this the next step toward possibly fitting these numerous but relatively small parcels into the upgraded development puzzle.

Several of the properties included in the redevelopment plan are currently already under development, while others first examined for possible inclusion were dropped for a variety of reasons.

“We’ve been looking at this for more than a year,” O’Connor said.

He described the properties as underused or not used, eyesores that the city hopes to get developed.

“We needed to do a study to see if the properties met the criteria for a redevelopment zone,” he said. “And then we came up with what we saw as an appropriate plan for each site.”

The state’s Local Housing and Redevelopment Law allows local governing bodies to designate areas in need of redevelopment, create partnerships with developers without bids, offer property tax incentives and, if necessary, use eminent domain to acquire properties on behalf of developers.

O’Connor said the city has not plans to use eminent domain to take any of these properties, but hopes that other incentives will be enough to encourage the current owners or future developers to reshape the land.

Although redevelopment zones can be a controversial tool when used to take property in order to raise the tax value of a property already under used, the state law was designed to help municipalities deal with properties that have been abandoned as in Bayonne when industry moves on or contamination issues leave properties vacant.

“What we wanted is to adopt a plan that allows the development to fit in with our neighborhoods,” O’Connor said. “We’re doing this according to the 2000 Master Plan.”

Revitalizing areas

O’Connor said the plan focuses a lot of attention on the gateway sections of the city, in particular the area in the northeastern section of the city along Avenue E where a string of abandoned and out-of-date properties greet people as they come off the New Jersey Turnpike. This includes old factory sites and several abandoned gas stations.

O’Connor said by designating these properties as in need of redevelopment, the city can hopefully attract developers by offering additional incentives, including state grants towards cleanup of contamination on those prosperities that need it.

“What we’re doing is bringing attention to these sites,” he said.

One of the properties included in this is a site currently occupied by Irwin’s discount store on Broadway.

“The owner expressed interest in redevelopment,” O’Connor said.

Various properties

In one case, the Planning Board removed a property that was mistakenly included in a redevelopment plan for a gas station when members discovered that the piece was actually owned by a neighboring resident.

Some of the properties, O’Connor said, were listed on the state Department of Environmental Protection’s known contaminated sites list, and the designation as in need of redevelopment could help provide funds for their cleanup.

Most of the parcels, however, were simply vacant – including several parcels in the central shopping district along Broadway, where designs had to be incorporated to meet parking requirements such as a driveway curb cut onto Broadway and a driveway through the building to reach parking in the rear.

Along Avenue E’s gateway, one parcel cannot be redeveloped because it is located underneath the curved ramps accommodating the Turnpike and other roads. In this case, the plan calls for improving the look through various cosmetic changes leading to an even more spruced up Avenue E, where development of several sites also includes a center divide and other changes that would improve the eye-appeal of that entrance to the city.

In fact, about Avenue E…

Avenue E was once the main thoroughfare leading to the Bayonne Bridge. The development of Route 440 (then called Route 169) in the early 1990s changed the traffic pattern and explained why some of the gas stations closed.

But several of the properties along that section served as industrial sites that have since gone into decline.

One site along Avenue E is right next to the Hudson Bergen Light Rail station on 34th Street and includes a city park. Under the plan, the park would remain a park, but would be upgraded, with a variety of buildings including residential homes or townhouses on one side to match existing property with other mixed use designs planned for the sections north of the property.

On Broadway, the operating bus station is included in the plan.

“We don’t want to push them out, but when they come to redevelop, we wanted make certain they knew what we had in mind for the property,” O’Connor said. “In all of these properties, we want to work with the property owners, bring to them the needed expertise and help them market the properties.”

Many of the sites in this plan include residential development. Those on Broadway would include mixed use that would allow retail on the first floor with residential above. All but one property included off street parking. The one exception is an oddly shaped lot – a former dry cleaners near Avenue A and West Eighth Street – where parking could not be accommodated on the lot – although if an adjacent property joins in a combined project, parking would be provided.

This is an important site because it is right across from the site of the future Eighth Street Bergen Hudson Light Rail Station.

The redevelopment plan also included in the redevelopment is an abandoned tavern on West First Street that would be converted to a four-story residential building under this plan.

Contact Al Sullivan at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com


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