In a bid to continue to revitalize the once thriving Broadway shopping area, the Bayonne City Council recently approved a request to authorize a redevelopment study of the southern portion of the city block bounded by East 21st Street, Broadway, and Library Court.
“The redevelopment study is a precursor to designating the area as ‘an area in need of redevelopment,’ which would permit the city to use all available redevelopment tools to spur redevelopment of the area,” said Business Administrator Stephen Gallo.
A similar request was granted earlier this year to study the block between 23rd and 24th streets on Broadway and the nearby area. Since that time, Mayor Mark Smith announced that a Florida real estate developer of health care facilities was interested in building a medical arts center on that property. He said that other developers remain interested in other sites in the city.
Included in the new, 21st Street study area is a parcel of land that had been proposed for an entertainment center, but has been a vacant construction site for many years.
“In the late 1990s, the corner property at Broadway and 21st Street was slated to become the site of a movie theater,” said city spokesman Joe Ryan. “Lawsuits and a change in the ownership of the theater chain ended the possibility of that cinema at that location.”
People at two nearby businesses think it would be greatly beneficial for the block if something could be done with the long-vacant property.
“What’s the use of having the lot right there?,” said Manuel Daliz Jr., manager of 21st East Flea Market. “You could put a school, a store, or a miniature main street there for the people.”
Anything that would be built there would make the block more attractive, Daliz said, even a café or other small store.
“Or a hall to rent out,” he said. “It would bring life back to the avenue.”
A couple of doors away, at the Bayonne Princess Market grocery store, owner Moon Joegh had a similar opinion.
“It’s been about 11 years,” Joegh said. “As soon possible, as quickly as someone can do something, would be great.”
Joegh said the street is one of the “best locations in Bayonne” and that any redevelopment there would revitalize the environs. The empty lot that exists there now “destroys the whole area.”
The grocer said that besides the unattractiveness of the parcel across the street, there is another more practical problem: vermin. Joegh said rats have come over to his business from the empty lot, and that he can’t even open his basement doors because of the concern of them entering. An opossum hanging from a fence there recently was also an offensive sight.
“That kind of stuff I hate,” he said.
Gallo said that the 21st Street initiative was part of the mayor’s block-by-block strategy to redevelop Broadway.
“Long-vacant properties are the obvious first target,” said Smith. “In the case at hand on East 21st Street, I think everyone will agree that we’ve all looked at that hole in the ground for far too long. Now that the economy has turned, it’s time we got something going there.”
The mayor said the city would like to work with current property owners to get projects under way.
“The days of the people of Bayonne waiting for things to happen are over,” Smith said. “Now that the economy is improving, we’re going to push the envelope and make things happen.”
The redevelopment process began with the city council authorizing the redevelopment study on May 21, according to Gallo.
City planning study
“During the study, the city’s planning professionals will meet with the property owners and engage them in a conversation about what can be done to redevelop the property,” Gallo said. “If the study determines that the area is indeed ‘an area in need of redevelopment,’ and the city council agrees, the area in question will benefit from the state’s redevelopment tools.”
Following that designation, the city would seek to work with property owners and interested developers to create a project that the area would benefit from.
A study of site conditions is expected to be completed during the summer, according to Ryan. If the Planning Board were to determine that the site is an area in need of redevelopment, then a redevelopment plan would be prepared “shortly thereafter.”
Then, ultimately, new construction would fill an empty corner that has needed redevelopment since the 1990s.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at: JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.