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City council withdraws redevelopment plan at redeveloper request

The developer, the Gamal Group, is still working out kinks in the plan with the city

A view of the former Caschem, Inc. chemical plant, from the redevelopment study.

The Bayonne City Council has withdrawn the introduction of an ordinance that would have approved a redevelopment plan for the former Caschem site at 35 Avenue A.

At the October meeting, one of the owners of the site, Ehab Gamal of the Gamal Group, asked the council to withdraw the ordinance while changes to the plan are negotiated with city officials. The council obliged and the ordinance was not introduced.

Further action may be taken on this ordinance at the council’s next meeting on Nov. 10 meeting at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall at 630 Avenue C. For more information, go to bayonnenj.org and click on the event on the calendar webpage.

Caschem redevelopment plan

The Bayonne Planning Board previously approved the redevelopment plan for the downtown industrial site in September, despite objections from the Gamal Group. The redevelopment area consists of an abandoned hydrogenation facility formerly operated by Caschem, Inc. for the manufacturing of castor oil.

The area is in the Bergen Point section of the city, which is being transformed with new development. The nearby former Texaco site had its redevelopment plan amended last year to include a major motion-picture studioTogus Urban Renewal is the redeveloper for the site, which along with the Caschem site, is envisioned as an entertainment district along Bayonne’s western shore.

The redevelopment plan divides the Caschem site in two: Sub-district A, or Caschem East, is east of Avenue A and west of the Bayonne Bridge and covers two city blocks between West 3rd and West 2nd Streets; and Sub-district B, or Caschem West- Pier District, is west of Avenue A and narrowly extends to Newark Bay.

In Caschem East, the maximum building height for the area between West 3rd Street and Gertrude Street is four stories. For the area between Gertrude Street and West 2nd Street, it’s three stories. The maximum number of residential units in Caschem East is 156. The maximum building height in Caschem West is three stories, and the maximum number of residential units is 104.

Another view of the abandoned plant in Bergen Point.

What the developer is allowed to build

Some notable permitted uses in Cachem East include multifamily residential dwellings; retail sales; restaurants; sidewalk cafes provided the sidewalk is a minimum of ten feet; public recreational facilities; offices or shared workspace; live-work space; and mixed use of any combination of any permitted uses, among others.

Meanwhile, key permitted uses in Caschem West include townhouses; restaurants and retail sales along Avenue A frontage; assisted living facilities; aged restricted, senior, and or special needs housing; entertainment venues; movie or performing arts theater; child care and or adult day care center; hotel; conference center; financial institution; off-shore wind cable landing and converter station; ferry terminal; and mixed use of any combination of any permitted uses, among others. For a full list of permitted uses in both districts, go to bayonnenj.org/_Content/pdf/P-20-028-Caschem-Redevelopment-Plan.pdf.

In Caschem West, 30 percent of the redevelopment area must consist of open space, including a waterfront plaza and waterfront walkway constructed by the redeveloper. Development of a pier on the site of the current pier is encouraged, but the development of buildings on the pier will need an amendment to the redevelopment plan.

Developer objections to planning board

The Gamal Group intends to construct two residential buildings on the eastern side of Avenue A, and a complex on the western side of Avenue A on the waterfront, potentially including hotel rooms, residential units, a community center and a restaurant.

At the September meeting of the planning board, attorney Glenn Kienz representing the Gamal Group objected to the redevelopment plan due to the height limitations in the redevelopment plan which he said were “unworkable” with the density desired. Kienz suggested allowing the height of the buildings to rise to just under the height of the bridge, at least 60 feet.

According to Kienz, that would be more beneficial to the area than say the townhouses permitted in the plan. He also took issue with other restrictions and specifics in the plan, such as the Caschem site being the anchor for the Texaco site. According to Kienz, there has been limited to no discussion with the owners of the Texaco site, Togus Urban Renewal, as to a unified plan between both sites. Kienz also alleged that the maximum permitted height in the redevelopment plan was reduced at the request of Togus Urban Renewal. He asked that the board change the plan to allow taller buildings.

The board unanimously approved the redevelopment plan despite the developer’s requests. However, it appears the Gamal Group is still seeking to alter the plan, given the recent move to withdraw the ordinance introducing the plan by the city council at the developer’s request.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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