On the cusp of major development, Bayonne was hit hard by the economic downturn in 2008. Projects that were scheduled to break ground, stalled, deals for development waiting final approval, evaporated.
Previous Mayor Mark Smith inherited significant issues such as a consistent annual budget deficit. Yet, the administration still sowed some of the seeds that are currently coming to bloom.
The current administration, under Mayor Jimmy Davis, has brought new tools to help further stimulate the economy, borrowing ideas such as tax abatements, from towns like Jersey City to help get shovels in the ground.
Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalotti, who served as chairman of the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority in the early 2000s, said, “We’re seeing some big projects underway or being considered, such as with the ice rink, special needs at 16th Street Park, the 8th Street Park project, and we could even see work at Hudson County park before the end of the year.”
He and others predict that Bayonne residents will have a better quality of life than in most of the last decade.
“We need these upgrades to public facilities,” Chiaravalloti said. “Considering the population that has been using them, they’ve been pretty strained.”
In economics, Bayonne has had a “Field of Dreams” philosophy since the decline of manufacturing in the late 1980s. If Bayonne can build modern homes, it will draw people from every income bracket.
Lately, people are moving to Bayonne on the promise of new development.
“People are willing to invest here or move in,” Chiaravalloti said. “People are renting apartments now, are looking to move into homes here. All these are positive signs.”
Some people who came here because of jobs in some of the new industries are settling in, starting to reverse the exodus that has plagued Bayonne over the last few decades.
“While there are still some areas we need to improve, we are riding a very positive wave,” Chiaravalloti said.
There’s progress in the redevelopment of the former Military Ocean Terminal and a key section of what is called “main land.”
“We’ve seen a couple of plans approved, and can make a real difference,’ Chiaravalloti said. “These will bring in a younger population to Bayonne.”
A new Investors Bank adds to the Broadway gateway which has seen the construction of a new Walgreens, TD Bank, and Quick Chek, all on formerly blighted sites.
Mayor Davis said he is focusing on Avenue E, hoping to take advantage of its proximity to the Bayonne spur of the Hudson Bergen Light Rail line.
Several developers said interest has been rekindled along the city’s west side and the site of the former Hi-Hat Catering Hall. This was slated to be the third successful Baker Property project, but halted when the recession hit in October 2008.
“Bayonne is open for business.” – Nicholas Chiaravalloti.
Also on the west side are the site of the former Best Food property on Avenue A and the former A&P shopping mall, both being considered for future development. Part of this is included in a state Department of Transportation Redevelopment overlay for the Bergen Point area near the Eighth Street light rail station.
Small businesses are the driving force behind Broadway’s main shopping district, changing from traditional retail stores to ones that serve people on the go.
“What’s happening on Broadway is it’s undergoing a transformation, from an avenue that used to be where a family could go for all of their shopping to one that’s a destination with eateries,” said Terrence Malloy, Bayonne’s chief financial officer and Urban Enterprise Zone coordinator.
Small businesses are thriving on the sale of food and gasoline and as car-repair services and restaurants. Broadway is getting help from development, such as the investment from Jersey City Medical Center-Barnabas Health’s medical arts building, which will bring people back to a street once considered a premier shopping district.
Park development in Bayonne
Open space is seeing a number of initiatives.
A new special needs playground opened at DiDomenico 16th Street Park last October. The area is near the park’s tennis courts and includes amenities for the disabled.
Renovations are also slated for Dennis P. Collins Park, Edward Clark Park, and Francis G. Fitzpatrick Park, according to Business Administrator Joseph DeMarco.
Clark Park, which is near the 8th Street Hudson Bergen Light Rail Station, has $800,000 worth of renovations on the way including a revamp of the basketball court, new seating, and passive areas. The money for the project comes from a Community Development Block Grant, bonding, and partially from the developers of the 22 North Street Tower, a condition for their new development.
Renovations are expected to start in April and be complete by August.
Fitzpatrick Park (near 27th Street and Avenue C) has $800,000 for a redesign of the seating areas, new tables and chairs, and the addition of a smaller multi-purpose courtyard. Work is scheduled to start by the end of the summer and take three months to complete.
Collins Park, the largest of the three in the shadow of the Bayonne Bridge, has about $360,000 in Port Authority money for some revisions. Improvements, which will begin in the spring and finish by July, will renovate the skate park, resurface turf on various courts, and upgrade pedestrian paths.
New development in Bayonne
The former Military Ocean Terminal, now named The Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor (PABH) is slated for extensive development, including both residential and commercial space.
Divided into multiple sections, the 15.5-acre Harbor Station North portion will be purely residential, while the 72-acre Harbor Station South will contain commercial elements from the development arm of Chinese import and export company Waitex.
Plans call for a 600-unit hotel, 50 high-end retail stores in a European-style mall, and a convention center. “I would say it’s a 4-5 year build out with the hotel being the first piece of it,” said City Planner Suzanne Mack.
Royal Caribbean Cruises expanded its Bayonne holdings with a new terminal and parking deck. Numerous other companies have also expanded their existing facilities, including kosher wine supplier Royal Wine, which added a 260,000-square-foot warehouse and moved its main headquarters to Bayonne.
After qualifying to receive more than $11 million in Grow NJ tax credits to move to Bayonne from Brooklyn, Pest control product manufacturer AP&G Co., Inc. revamped an existing building downtown as a combination light manufacturing, assembly, and warehouse facility.
Plans are also underway for a possible seven-story hotel in South Cove Commons.
CarePoint vs. JCMC will benefit Bayonne
Although CarePoint has long dominated the medical scene in Bayonne, this may soon change as Jersey City Medical Center-Barnabas Health is building a new medical arts center in Bayonne.
Competition between two medical giants in Hudson County can only benefit Bayonne residents.
Over the last year, hospitals in Hudson County have been expanding services in order to appeal to a wider demographic and to try to find a model for care that takes advantage of the changed health-insurance environment.
In some ways, Hudson County has become a laboratory for a national experiment, pitting for-profit hospitals against not-for-profits to see which model will work best in the extremely competitive medical field.
CarePoint, which owns three hospitals in Hudson County, including Bayonne Medical Center, is a for-profit hospital, while JCMC remains not for profit.
While CarePoint has played down recent layoffs, the move suggests that the for-profit hospital network is doing some belt tightening after several years of intense expansion.
The big trend for hospital survival appears to be innovation, and each of the hospital groups is trying to carve out its own particular niche, some covering similar areas but in their own way.
Jersey City Medical Center-Barnabas Health has partnered with local unions to help train people as EMTs. CarePoint is expected to launch a similar program in Bayonne connected to the local school district there.
Over the past 12 months Jersey City Medical Center, a Barnabas Health facility, has witnessed unparalleled growth and change, with blueprints in place for additional expansion in the near future.
A completely new facility at the site of the former Greenville Hospital in Jersey City could help provide services to Bayonne. Closed in 2008, the facility has been repurposed to provide such services as an urgent care center, an HIV treatment center, primary and specialty physicians’ offices, and programs for children with special needs. As many as 200 people are now employed and additional programs are planned.
Bayonne Medical Center will serve as the host platform for the launching of the new residency program. Medical students will assist on teaching service cases and cover on-call shifts throughout the CarePoint Health system, which includes BMC, Christ Hospital in Jersey City, and Hoboken University Medical Center. CarePoint Health plans to expand existing programs as needed in July 2016 and introduce more residency programs in additional areas of clinical care.
Bayonne Medical Center was recognized for excellence in accountability measures for the treatment of heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, surgical care, venous thromboembolism (VTE) and stroke. BMC was recognized as a 2014 Top Performer on Key Quality Measures by The Joint Commission, the leading accreditor of health care organizations in the United States.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.