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Marist High School redevelopment plan offers residential and industrial options

The redeveloper can choose either, but not both

Demolition of the former Marist High School is moving forward. Photos by Daniel Israel

The Bayonne Planning Board has approved a redevelopment plan for the former Marist High School. The board previously designated the former Catholic high school a non-condemnation area-in-need-of-redevelopment in April of this year.

City Planner Suzanne Mack presented the plan to the board at a special meeting in early December. The redevelopment plan for the school leaves options for the redeveloper to either go with an industrial route or a residential route.

“This site has been an important place for many, many people in Bayonne for number of years,” Mack said. “Unfortunately due to changing the change in the world, the Marist Brothers had decided to close the site and put it to new use and we’re here tonight as a result of that.”

No more school

While the city was pursuing the building as a school on behalf of the Board of Education, the district abandoned the project after it become too costly to remove asbestos and other contaminants.

“Unfortunately that site was cost prohibitive and there were too many contamination issues,” Mack said.

The school consists of four land lots and one tax lot in the northwestern portion of the city, south of the Turnpike exit. One lot is home to the three-story school while the other two lots contain one small building each on the northwest portion of the site, and the other lot contains the soccer field. The tax lot is the site of a billboard.

The site is surrounded by the New Jersey Turnpike to the North and West, Rutkowski Park to the South, and frontage on Kennedy Boulevard to the East. Next to the school buildings on Kennedy is a small residential area with around a dozen homes. And next to the building on the other side, albeit farther away, is the Bayonne Towers. The redevelopment area is zoned for both residential and industrial uses.

“We basically had to write two plans,” Mack said. “We had to write one plan for the residential standards and one plan to be industrial standards and kind of marry them. That was not that hard to some degree, but it became complicated with the buffers and the setbacks.”

What is permitted

Under the redevelopment plan, permitted uses include: multifamily residential; assisted living; community center; self storage; warehouse; office space; agricultural growing operations both indoor and rooftop; retail uses not to exceed 20,000 square feet; hotel auto rental facilities; free-standing billboards; retail non-trucking fuel sales; equipment sales; art galleries; educational uses including special needs; streets, sidewalks and walkways; and any combination except warehouse and residential.

Permitted accessory uses include: outdoor storage; business offices; pharmacy medical offices; wall-mounted electronic billboards; food service for employees; fitness centers and gyms; residential amenities; off street parking; signage; rooftop solar arrays; outdoor plazas; outdoor seating, fences, landscaping, lighting, utilities, and refuse enclosures.

“Wall mounted electronic message boards would only be on the north facing the New Jersey Turnpike, which is an opportunity for the developer and for the city to have that,” Mack said.

However, outdoor storage is strictly defined in the plan. Subletting of outdoor storage to a tenant not associated with the building tenant or use is prohibited. Stored materials must be screened by walls, fences and or landscaping to prevent street level visibility from the street or neighboring lots. Outdoor storage cannot be higher than 25 feet, stacking of modular shipping containers is prohibited, vehicles and trailers will not be permitted to be stored outdoors for more than 60 consecutive days without leaving. Overall, the aggregate area of the redevelopment area devoted to outdoor storage will not exceed 20 percent.

Prohibited uses include storage and processing of trash and recyclables, commercial parking, and warehousing of toxic gases.

Site guidelines

The maximum building height is different depending on the use. For multifamily building, the maximum height is 180 feet or 14 stories. The maximum height of a warehouse and other buildings such as self-storage facilities are limited to 75 feet, at six stories. Retail is capped at a height of 35 feet. Any retail fuel canopy cannot be more than 20 feet tall.

Maximum lot coverage is capped at 65 percent. Impervious coverage is limited to 70 percent for residential and 80 percent for industrial. Qualifying green roofs serve as credit toward pervious coverage, which absorbs not deflects rain water.

The redevelopment plan dictates there will be setbacks on all sides of the property: 50 feet to the South, 50 feet to the West, 10 feet to the North. The setback is 20 feet from Leo Slyvios Road if retail, 200 feet for all other uses except retail, and 50 feet North of the same road.

The plan also requires a buffer of 25 feet to the South and West boundaries, five feet to the North and East boundaries, five feet from Kennedy Boulevard and zero feet from Leo Slyvios Road.

According to the plan, parking will be one to one ratio for residential, increasing by unit size. The ratio for warehouses is .04 per 1,000 square feet, for self-storage is one per 1,000 square feet, for senior living is .05 per dwelling unit, for educational is one per staff, for retail is one per 300 square feet, and for office is one per 250 square feet. Electric spots will be credited as two parking spots.

Other details

A minimum of 15 percent of the area shall be provided as recreational open space. This requirement drops to a minimum of 10 percent if residential uses are not proposed. Street trees on Kennedy Boulevard must be preserved to the extent possible.

The redevelopment plan encourages the developer to construct a gateway sign bearing the name Bayonne, due to the site proximity to the entrance of the city via Kennedy. And the plan calls for it to honor the former high school in some way.

“I’ve suggested somehow creating a monument, sign, or something that would incorporate the importance of that institutional asset that so many so many of our residents happily attended,” Mack said.

The existing NJ Transit bus stop on the Kennedy Boulevard sidewalk is maintained or improved as part of the redevelopment activity. A publicly accessible sidewalk will be installed along the southern property boundary, between Kennedy Boulevard and Sunset Avenue, to provide pedestrian connectivity between the two streets.

The board voted unanimously to approve the redevelopment plan. The redeveloper assigned to the property, Peninsula Court, LLC which is a subsidiary of the Alessi Organization, has not submitted final site plans for the board. It is not clear yet if they will take the residential or industrial route, but given the area, a residential project is probably the more likely outcome.

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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