Planning board approves massive development plan for MOTBY site

Hearing provides first look at developer's goals for 26 acres of former military base

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These renderings provide a glimpse of the proposed luxury residential, commercial, retail, and hotel developments.
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Architect Stewart Johnson ran through a rough timetable of the construction plan before it was approved.
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The development will be on the highlighted portion of this MOTBY map.
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These renderings provide a glimpse of the proposed luxury residential, commercial, retail, and hotel developments.
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Architect Stewart Johnson ran through a rough timetable of the construction plan before it was approved.
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The development will be on the highlighted portion of this MOTBY map.

A general development plan for one of the largest single construction projects Hudson County has ever seen was approved by the Bayonne Planning Board on Sept. 10.

At the meeting, planning board commissioners adopted a general development plan with Malahaxmi Urban Renewal for a 26.33-acre area of the former Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne (MOTBY), just off Route 440.

The site was a naval base from World War II to the Persian Gulf War. After the military decommissioned it, the city acquired it and began selling off parcels of vacant, unused MOTBY land to a number of developers.

The development consists of 25 buildings, five of which include 25-story residential towers. New streets will be created on the site between Chosin Few Way and Goldsborough Drive, navigating through a whopping 4,500 rental apartments, 218 hotel rooms, commercial buildings, and about 80,000 square feet of retail space.

It will be close to a light rail station, and the pending SeaStreak Ferry service slated for MOTBY.

Prior to the development plan’s approval, Stewart Johnson, a lead architect for the project, presented a blueprint and timetable, as the 15-year build-out progresses.

In January, the city granted a 25-year tax break for Harbor Station South, one of the many developments in the newly approved general development plan, which sparked some controversy from residents.

The massive blueprint

Johnson said that the build-out will be broken into more than two dozen phases, all of which are anticipated to be complete by 2034. Ten years later, the tax abatement expires, and the properties begin contributing full property taxes to the city, the school district, the county, and the state.

During most of the phases, temporary parking lots will be built before the construction of the parking decks.

The first part of the project is a building called the Waterview, which will have more than 100 units, followed by a 10-story residential building with 105 units.

After that, a 184-unit rental building will be constructed, along with additional interim parking, and a new public park. Then, Malahaxmi will begin construction of a greenway which covers the entire development leading to the park. The greenway will include several pocket parks and planters.

A 218-key hotel with banquet space will follow with adjacent parking.

After these structures are complete, a multi-level parking deck will be built. At this point, Malahaxmi expects to have retail and restaurant spaces on the ground level.

After three rental buildings and a large hotel are built, Malahaxmi will construct another 180-unit rental building with underground parking and more parking decks.

Improvements to the new public park are slated.

Following this, hundreds more apartment rental units will be built, along with a parking deck for the hotel, and the northeast portion of the development will be completed.

The final phase will be three 25-story apartment towers and other residential buildings, which will be at the most inland part of the MOTBY site.

Planning board officials said that the development plan has a flexible timetable, to meet renters’ demands.

The developer is required to construct 1.1 parking spaces for every residential unit, and three spaces for every commercial unit. The plan entails 5,393 parking spaces, and does not include the additional 219 street parking spots that will be installed on both sides of every street in the development.

Civil engineering

Civil Engineer Eric Ballou testified as a witness during the hearing. He studied the impact the project would have on utilities, storm water management, access to community facilities and emergency services, and adherence to the city’s master plan.

Ballou said DEP regulations will be met to ensure that the buildings, which are in a flood zone, will be elevated per state code. He said that the skeleton of utility installations are already in place, according to Bayonne’s 2017 master plan. City officials have been planning for a massive real estate boom on MOTBY for some time.

A major storm water and sewage line extends outward from central Bayonne to the Hudson River. Connections to it would need to be installed. Ballou said that the greenway runs atop the main utility line, to make repairs more manageable.

He said that the development adheres to many of the requirements of the master plan. All of the infrastructure was put in place more than a decade ago. The master plan calls for Malahaxmi’s redevelopment area to have a maximum of 6,000 units, over 1,000 more than the general development plan calls for.

‘We’re creating a neighborhood here’

“We’re creating a neighborhood here,” said John McDonough, a city planner but not on Bayonne’s planning board. “This is right on point with the essence of the redevelopment plan, in terms of intensity of use, density, parking, height, coverage, light, air controls, setbacks. It’s all in strict compliance with the redevelopment plan. The market value is over half a billion dollars on what’s now essentially vacant land. The development is conducive to non-families, and won’t have a detrimental impact on the school system, and there will be 7,000 people contributing to our local businesses both inside and outside the development.”

McDonough said that the general development plan is only a first step in ongoing negotiations between the developer and the city. “This is here to give the applicant assurance that the board likes this, and it gives the board assurance that this is what the applicant wants to do.”

For updates on this and more stories check hudsonreporter.com or follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mike Montemarano can be reached at mikem@hudsonreporter.com.