Defying the perception that the former Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne (MOTBY) would become a cruise port, some local officials are touting the latest move by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as a possible new direction.
With the approval of a new $50 million expansion of Port Liberty cruise port in Bayonne by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the city may be on the verge of inking an agreement for the development of a new hotel and possible complex to accommodate incoming and outgoing passengers.
City officials said the Port Authority’s plans to expand the facilities at Port Liberty may be the first step in establishing tourist-related industry on Port Authority-owned property as well as in the surrounding area, and may soon lead to the unveiling of new development for portions of the MOTBY still owned by the city, including a possible hotel that would serve tourists coming to and from the cruise port.
City officials say they’ve been working on a possible hotel development near the cruise port for months, but much of it hinged on moves by the Port Authority.
The Port Authority announced this week that Royal Caribbean also plans to base the region’s largest cruise vessel at the new Bayonne facility beginning in 2014.
In response, last week the Port Authority Board of Commissioners approved plans by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines to build a new cruise terminal building at the Port Authority-owned marine terminal facility in Bayonne—a major public investment that will spur continued growth in the New Jersey cruise business.
As part of its expansion plans, Royal Caribbean also agreed to base its new Quantum of the Seas vessel—the largest cruise ship serving the New York-New Jersey region—at Bayonne beginning in 2014. The new vessel, which can accommodate up to 4,180 passengers, will sail to the Caribbean, Bahamas, Florida, and Bermuda.
City officials said this could lead the way to redevelopment of a portion of the former Military Ocean Terminal that is still owned by the city for a possible hotel.
The Port Authority acquired the Cape Liberty Cruise Terminal in June 2010 as part of its purchase of the 131-acre portion of the former Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne.
But the city still owns several key parcels of land, where a hotel complex had been proposed in the past.
As part of the agreement allowing construction of the cruise terminal building, the Port Authority agreed to extend Royal Caribbean’s operating agreement for the terminal for an additional five years through 2043.
“The cruise industry is one of this region’s most rapidly growing markets, and this private sector investment will enhance our ability to generate significant revenues from the waterfront property we own,” said Port Authority Chairman David Samson. “With the region’s largest vessel scheduled to dock at this port facility, we will be able to grow the jobs and economic activity that the cruise business has generated for this region for many decades.”
“The new Royal Caribbean Cruise Terminal will provide the people of New Jersey and New York with the world-class travel experience they deserve,” said Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni. “We welcome the significant investment Royal Caribbean is making in our region and look forward to welcoming the Quantum of the Seas to her new home in our port.”
The new $70 million cruise terminal building—which will be paid for by Royal Caribbean—includes a 36,000-square-foot check-in terminal, 60,000-square-foot luggage area, parking deck, additional parking, and berth improvements. Construction is scheduled to begin this summer and be completed by October 2014.
Passenger volumes at the Cape Liberty Cruise Terminal have grown steadily in the past three years—from 393,000 passengers in 2010 to 476,000 in 2012. Passenger volumes at the facility are expected to increase to approximately 600,000 after the new terminal building opens.
Bayonne is poised for new direction for port redevelopment
Although the original plans for hotel operations near the foot of MOTBY are no longer valid and the city is looking at a whole new hotel project, moves made back in 2010 make new development easier.
In anticipation of a possible hotel for the area, the city council passed a zoning overlay in 2010 that modified the original 2005 redevelopment plan to allow for possible hotel and retail development that was not originally envisioned for the section nearest Route 440.
With the anticipated August dissolution of the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority—which previously oversaw development on MOTBY—city officials will be more involved in the actual redevelopment process.
“The City of Bayonne looks forward to working with the Port Authority and Royal Caribbean to expand the cruise ships’ base of operations in Bayonne,” said Bayonne Mayor Mark A. Smith. “This kind of business growth will have a positive ripple effect on our local economy and future development.” Mayor Smith continued, “From the beginning of the cruise port in Bayonne, the existing facility was intended to be temporary. The plan all along has been to build a bigger, better, permanent cruise terminal. We are very happy that the Port Authority will participate in this major expansion. Heralded by cruise-goers as a favored port, the new and expanded cruise terminal will cement Bayonne’s position as the traveler’s port of choice in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region. The new facility is expected to encourage other related development in the community such as hotels, recreational amenities, restaurants, entertainment, and support services to meet the demand of the traveling public.”
Although residents and city officials have long bemoaned the lack of a hotel in Bayonne (and several projects proposed have fallen through over the years), the latest effort will likely have a good chance of success with the Port Authority’s moves to upgrade the cruise port facilities.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.