Transit village to replace parking lot at 34th Street light rail station

Plans yet to be finalized

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A transit village is in the planning stages for the 34th Street light rail station.
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A light rail train approached the platform at the 34th Street light rail station.
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An illustrated ground floor plan from Panepinto Properties
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A transit village is in the planning stages for the 34th Street light rail station.
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A light rail train approached the platform at the 34th Street light rail station.
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An illustrated ground floor plan from Panepinto Properties

NJ Transit is looking for a real estate developer to build a 4-12-story mixed-use development on its four-and-a-half-acre, right-triangle-shaped site on the east side of the 34th Street light rail station, currently used as a parking lot. In November, the Bayonne City Council designated the site to be redeveloped with the Jersey City-based Panepinto Properties as the developer, which could change.

Precise plans for the site will not be established until a final developer is designated, but the agency’s “request for qualifications and expression of interest” outline an intriguing framework. The site will be divided into three blocks with a road entering west from Route 440 and continuing south between two buildings that will have mixed-use space on the ground floors and residential housing on top. The ground level may include retail shops, cafes, restaurants, and office space for professional services. A small plaza or park is also possible.

To the north would be a parking garage. Walking paths would surround the development, allowing pedestrians to safely access the walkway over the light rail tracks which is expected to one day extend over Route 440 to the former Military Ocean Terminal where a bevy of housing developments are planned.

An illustrated ground floor plan from Panepinto Properties.NJ Transit owns the site, but the planning process will be carried out locally. The property is currently used for parking with a stop fro a bus that takes commuters to and from Staten Island. No matter what is constructed, the amount of parking for commuters must stay intact because the lot was built with Federal Transit Administration funds, an agreement that requires the same number of spaces to remain in perpetuity. Any new development will also maintain a bus stop.

Inbound opportunities

The site seemed inevitable for development considering its proximity to the light rail, state tax incentives, and local zoning incentives to construct “transit-oriented development.”  The most recent version of the Bayonne Master Plan passed in 2017. It recommends the city establish “station area plans” for neighborhoods within a quarter mile of a light rail station as “transit villages,” to encourage walkable neighborhoods that encourage the use of cycling and public transit.

Ground-floor retail would likely be popular with commuters, whose nearest coffee stop is the 7-11 a wide block away on Broadway and a hot dog stand on 31st Street. Healthcare employees at CarePoint Bayonne Medical Center on 30th Street use the bus stop at all hours, as well as those commuting into Jersey City, Hoboken, and New York City.

NJ Transit would maintain ownership of the site and lease it to the developer. The Bayonne City Council passed a redevelopment plan that set guidelines for the development in November. City hall signed a memorandum of understanding with NJ Transit in the spring of 2019. A public meeting will be held for interested developers and the public on July 18 at 10:30 a.m. The deadline for applications is September 17.

“Transit and walkable communities are the wave of the future, and we are proud to be at the forefront,” said NJ Transit President and CEO Kevin Corbett in a press release. “Bayonne has been a great partner as we’ve moved forward with this concept, and with this call for developers, we’ve taken the next step to realizing our shared vision.”

“The City of Bayonne looks forward to working with NJ Transit in a private-public partnership to develop a portion of the 34th Street Light Rail parking lot,” said Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis. “The City of Bayonne welcomes development that takes advantage of the convenient commutes offered by the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system.”

Bayonne City Planner Suzanne Mack said that Gov. Murphy’s office and Bayonne city officials were “really excited. You have a defunct parking lot that stores people, and now it will become an active center.”

The development is one of two similar “transit villages” for which NJ Transit is soliciting a developer. The other is at the train station in Matawan in Monmouth County, which has a similar area and lot shape.

For updates on this and other stories check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Rory Pasquariello can be reached at roryp@hudsonreporter.com.