Bayonne will purchase a long-dormant lot in the heart of the Broadway business district that officials say will result in a new residential development and greatly increased ratables for the city.
The City Council voted 4-1 at its Nov. 10 meeting to purchase the vacant lot at 426-428 Broadway, the site of the old M&M’s store, for $900,000, using Urban Enterprise Zone money. Third Ward Councilman Gary La Pelusa voted against the measure.
Business Administrator Joseph DeMarco spoke to the City Council and residents about the administration’s plans for the site.
DeMarco said the plan is to turn the lot, which has not been used since 1990, from a $25,000 annual source of tax income into one which makes the city $400,000 in taxes.
“We have an interest in Bayonne. I think it’s a great place for development.” – Lara Schwager
He said that Ingerman Development Company LLC is purchasing a parking lot behind the site which runs between 19th and 21st streets. Ingerman will also purchase an old Bayonne Housing Authority Building on 21st Street that has not been used for 10 years. The company will buy part of the lot the city is buying, and will build a 140-unit residential project.
“What will happen is the city will purchase the old M&M lot, the developer will purchase the lot the city never owned, and the Housing Authority portion and the land there, for $700,000,” DeMarco said. “When the land gets developed, the plan is about half of the M&M lot gets purchased by the developer from the city.”
That purchase from the city will lead to major development of the area. Besides the residential project and parking spaces for it, 30 or 40 spaces will be for public use for shopping on Broadway. A passive park, to be used for public events, will also be constructed.
The city believes that in about two and a half years that area of Broadway will be rejuvenated.
“You have an empty lot there for a quarter of a century that there was no economic activity,” DeMarco said. “No one lives there, no one shops there. No one parks there. It’s an eyesore and it does nothing. We now have an opportunity with developers to transform three underutilized lots to make into an economically viable entity.”
DeMarco said that the $700,000 from the Housing Authority property could be used to build new housing elsewhere in the city.
City officials hope that residents from the new development will spur increased retail interest in the neighborhood.
“Hopefully they’ll go to the Big Apple, Volcano restaurant, the Villa Maria, and shop in the farmers market on Broadway,” DeMarco said. “They can get their taxes done or nails done, and open an account at BCB. Residents bring people, and people bring money, and the money gets spent in town over and over again. It’s an economic driver.”
But not everyone is in favor of the project. At the council meeting, La Pelusa said he was “uncomfortable with it” and that he thought purchasing the lot sent the wrong message to the public. He said he wasn’t sure it was fiscally responsible, especially in a year that the city raised taxes.
Company plans to move ahead
Eighth Street resident and former New Jersey Assembly candidate Matthew Kopko had several questions for Lara Schwager of Ingerman Development Company LLC, the residential project developers.
In response, Schwager said her company has built about 7,000 units in three states for about $1 billion in development. She also said her company generally holds onto its properties for the long term, and was making that type of investment in the city.
“We’re pretty selective. We have an interest in Bayonne,” she said. “I think it’s a great place for development. It’s a great opportunity.”
Schwager said her company would go before the Planning Board at its January meeting, and that Ingerman hopes to start building next summer.
“We’re going to move quickly to effectuate that,” said Chief Financial Officer Terrence Malloy at the meeting.
There were also the introduction for a tax abatement and a redevelopment plan for the same project, which both will be taken up at the Dec. 16 City Council meeting.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.