The Bayonne Planning Board has designated Marist High School a non-condemnation area in need of redevelopment.
Marist, the last Catholic high school in Bayonne, closed at the end of the 2019-2020 school year due to declining enrollment and an operational deficit. The city has taken the first steps toward buying the school property at 1241 JFK Blvd.
While officials had been informally negotiating to purchase the school for years before it closed, the city officially entered into negotiations with the Marist Brothers in January.
The city council adopted an ordinance in October that authorized the spending of capital improvement funds toward the purchase. The ordinance drew $100,000 that acts as a “down payment” toward purchasing the Marist High School, assessed at $8.9 million.
The real value of that assessment would be in excess of $20 million after the application of the city’s equalization ratio. Equalization ratios are measurements that ensure the assessment of properties are close to market value.
In need of redevelopment
City Planner Mika Apte presented the redevelopment study to the board at its April meeting.
The school consists of four land lots and one tax lot in the northwestern portion of the city, south of the Turnpike exit. The first lot is the three- story school itself. The largest property on the site, the school was established in 1954.
The lot containing the school meets three criteria to be designated a non-condemnation area in need of redevelopment, including deterioration, obsolete layout, and “smart growth” principles.
Apte said the school building is in poor condition, including water damage and problems with HVAC system.
She said the lot has an obsolete layout because of insufficient parking and the entrance to the parking lot being small and located on JFK Blvd. The property doesn’t appear to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act in certain areas.
According to Apte, designating the property as an area in need of redevelopment is in line with smart growth principles because of the location of its parking lot and the walls along the front of the property. Under smart growth principles, the parking lot would be in back, the walls would open along the front of the property, and the property would be more pedestrian friendly.
The second of four lots is a soccer field. Apte said it lacks amenities associated with a recreation field including outdoor lighting or bleachers. It’s landlocked, with no frontage on the street, meaning it must be redeveloped, according to Apte.
The lot containing the soccer fields qualifies as an area in need of redevelopment because of property ownership issues and smart growth principles.
Property ownership issues apply because the site is landlocked, borders a chromate remediation site, and has historical fill. Apte said that designating the property as an area in need of redevelopment is in line with smart growth principles if the lot included with the adjacent property will result in a comprehensive development.
The other two lots are small buildings on the northwest portion of the site.
Although there is no street frontage, there are no conditions that warrant a designation as an area in need of redevelopment. But the lots still meet the criteria for conducive redevelopment, Apte said.
The tax lot, created for tax assessment purposes, contains a billboard. According to Apte, the billboard shows some wear and tear but does not meet any criteria to be designated an area in need of redevelopment. But the site still qualifies because it’s necessary for a comprehensive redevelopment of the area.
No plans yet
Commissioner Ramon Veloz asked if the city no longer intended to use the property as a school for the overburdened district. Officials have said on multiple occasions that the school will be repurposed for educational needs.
Apte clarified that this was just a vote to determine if the property was an area in need of redevelopment, not what the area would be used for.
Peter Kane, President of Marist High School, called in to the meeting to say that negotiations were ongoing to sell the property to the city.
The board voted unanimously to designate the property as a non-condemnation area in need of redevelopment. Now the city council can do the same and then direct the planning board to draw up a redevelopment plan.
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