While the world’s economy may have been shaken in 2009, Bayonne economic development appears to have continued to flourish, putting the city in a good position to take advantage of an expected economic recovery.
Going into the new year, Bayonne has several major projects already under construction, including the Bayonne Crossing retail center on Route 440 at E. 22nd Street, Inserra Supermarkets’ new ShopRite at Avenue C and West 25th Street (with site work to be completed in spring 2010), and the uptown Quik Check service station and convenience store on East 53rd Street.
“We’re a very small band of business owners struggling to stay afloat in these trying times.” – Eddie O’Rourke
Projects under construction
The Bayonne Crossing shopping mall at Route 440 and New Hook Road may actually break ground this year after several false starts and environmental cleanup issues. It will be anchored by Lowe’s Home Improvement, New York Sports Club, and Wal-Mart.
Bayonne Crossing is expected to generate more than 800 full-time equivalent jobs, $2.5 million in Urban Enterprise Zone funds, and millions more in taxes over the next few decades.
Although ShopRite still has work to complete, it opened its doors last December, serving as an anchor to the city’s central business district.
Already approved for construction in 2010 are the Bayonne Energy Center – an electrical generating plant on New Hook Road at the Kill Van Kull – and the Bayonne OMNI Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center, a 10-story mixed commercial building on Broadway between East 29th and East 30th streets that will feature a nursing home, medical office, parking and ground floor retail. Demolition of the site has been completed, remediation is close to complete, and construction is expected to start later this year.
The 120-bed nursing home facility on Broadway, adjacent to the Bayonne Medical Center on East 29th Street, is of particular note. The $25 million project is proposed by Omni Healthcare of New Jersey, which owns and operates similar facilities in Union City, West New York, Jersey City and Secaucus. The project is expected to generate almost $500,000 additional property taxes as well as more than 200 jobs, not including construction jobs. The project is expected to take 18 to 20 months to complete.
The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority’s Off-Track Wagering Facility, a two story and 35,000 square foot building with a party room and restaurant, is expected to break ground at a site on Route 440 North at the Fifth Street interchange.
The facility will include a restaurant and could generate a combination of 100 full and part-time jobs, including OTW staff, security, maintenance, and food service. A slightly smaller facility operating in Woodbridge currently sees $2 million wagered weekly.
RDA Realty is expected to break ground on a 40,000 square foot medical office building on the site of the former Holiday Tree and Trim on Broadway near 40th Street.
The two most significant proposed projects due for a public hearing this year are the Bayonne Medical Center Medical Office Building, a 50,000 square-foot medical office building proposed for Avenue E, and the re-use of the former Maidenform building on Avenue E for mixed-use transit oriented development.
Bergen Point revitalized
With only one vacant store left in its shopping district, the Bergen Point area of town appears ready to welcome commuters when they step out of the new Eighth Street station of the Hudson Bergen Light Rail Station later this year. Although the area’s merchants association seems to have become history, local business people are still getting together in a common interest.
“I’ve organized a number of local merchants who, come spring, will be sponsoring ‘Historic Bergen Point’ street banners on Broadway,” said Eddie O’Rourke, owner of Edfor Music. “They’ll be an original design of mine left over from the merchants association.”
O’Rourke said he has been concerned that with the existing economy, Bergen Point has lost some of the visibility it achieved in the early part of this decade.
“We’re a very small band of business owners struggling to stay afloat in these trying times,” he said. “With the advancement of the light rail and the new Eighth Street station to the downtown area, it’s imperative that the oldest and most historic part of the city continues to thrive. Bergen Point represents a place in time when life wasn’t so complex. It’s indicative of that cozy, hometown feeling that’s often lost in hectic 21st century life. When the new sidewalks were installed recently, I protected the old pedestal fire alarms from demolition.”
The light rail is being extended from its current end at 22nd Street to Eighth Street, where a new station is under construction.
The station will duplicate the historic Central Railroad Station that sat on a nearby site for 100 years until it was demolished in the early 1970s.
Town Center/Broadway offers promotions
Meanwhile, the Bayonne Town Center Management Corporation continues a host of programs designed to attract people to the Broadway shopping district, including some new promotions for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day. This is in addition to their other events, such as outdoor movies, classic car shows, a hot dog eating contest, a sidewalk sale, mini-golf tournament, back to school promotions, art shows, Halloween pumpkin and costume contest, a menorah lighting, a variety of Christmas events, and a Super Bowl raffle.
With the assistance of Urban Enterprise Zone financing, the Town Center has increased its grants from $10,000 to $20,000 to help store owners design new façades. Carvel Ice Cream and Sari Sari Asian FoodMart are expected to take advantage of the new offer.
Pending approval from the Bayonne Planning Board, buildings at 545, 549, and 555 Broadway are going to see new residential units constructed above the store fronts.
One of the key successes for the Town Center has been the opening of new businesses, which several real estate agents in town suggest signifies a renewed interest in the traditional shopping district and a possible regeneration of business for the future here.
Although Acme is leaving the uptown section of the city, the site will not be vacant long, because a Fine Fare store is slated to replace it.
The uptown section of the city – from the border of Jersey City to 45th Street – has been something of a forgotten land. But two independent efforts by business owner Vincent Virga, president of Partnership Financial Services, and 3rd Ward Councilman Gary La Pelusa hope to stir up interest and community involvement in that area.
The new Quik Check and the recently opened TD Bank are good indications that they will have a solid base with which to work.