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Bayonne approves first of three-phased MOTBY redevelopment

The six-story building will house 159 residential units and over 7,000 square feet of retail space

The Bayonne Planning Board has approved the first of a three phase redevelopment in the Harbor Station South District of the former Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne (MOTBY).

The building will be known as the Aquaview, and is located at 54 Flagship Street off of Goldsborough Drive, east of the Harbor Pointe redevelopment and north of the Waterview redevelopment. The existing site is vacant land, south of the unimproved right-of-way for Constitution Avenue.

The redeveloper, Guari Shankar Flagship Urban Renewal, LLC, received approval to construct a six-story mixed-use residential and commercial building at the planning board’s April meeting. There will be ground floor retail space totaling 7,745 square feet.

Features of the planned building

The building will feature 159 units, with 52 studio, 62 one-bedrooms, 10 one-bedroom with den units, and 35 two-bedrooms. The studio units will be 555 square feet. The one-bedroom units range from 660 square feet to 720 square feet. The one-bedroom with den unit is 850 square feet, while the two-bedroom units range in size from 960 square feet to 1,110 square feet. 

The second floor will include residential apartments, an amenity deck with recreational spaces, a club room, and a fitness center. The third floor through the sixth floor have residential apartments and the roof will have a roof deck area and recreational outdoor space of approximately 12,610 square feet.

Parking will be located behind the building, with access off of Flagship street. There will be 166 parking spaces with 46 garage spaces and 120 surface spaces. The 166 spaces is less than 201 in the redevelopment plan because some of the spaces will be fore electric vehicles, which count as two spaces under state regulations. A field of grass that will serve as open space will remain in between Flagship Street and the parking lot.

Attorney Donald Pepe presented the application to the board on behalf of the redeveloper. Pepe said the application was in line with the General Redevelopment Plan for the area, passed in 2019.

The redeveloper was seeking a few variances, one for the loading area to be smaller than required in the redevelopment plan, two regarding the number and other details of signage for the retail space, and another seeking the smaller sizes for the studio units.

Parking lot access and pedestrian walkway in lieu of street

The site plan laid out two options for a secondary connection to the parking lot, according to Pepe. The first is through Flagship Street near the culmination of Stanley Avenue.

The plan calls for either an access road from Goldsborough Drive, although this would be smaller than a normal road since it is a smaller right-of-way. To remedy this, the redeveloper is seeking a dedication by the neighboring property owner of their right-of-way to bring the street up to a normal size.

In the meantime, the redeveloper proposed another secondary inlet to the site via an access road built on the Constitution Avenue right-of-way to provide a way into the parking lot via a new roadway between Goldsborough Drive and Constitution Avenue. This entry way would be nearly adjacent to the terminus of Stanley Avenue on the other side of the parking lot.

The board was not concerned with those plans as much as they were with the pedestrian plaza in lieu of a road. Unique to this building, the front of the building will abut a pedestrian walkway instead of a road.

In lieu of extending Stanley Avenue, the redeveloper will construct a pedestrian walkway for the entire block length. The idea is to have the ground-floor retail line the pedestrian street, activating it for use by cafes and other such uses.

“A very unique aspect of this project is the proposed pedestrian plaza,” Pepe said. “Adjacent to the plaza area, we have a lot of opportunities for the tenants they may be here.”

An aerial perspective of the planned redevelopment superimposed next to photos of the existing area.

Circulation not affected by pedestrian street

Commissioner Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski, who is the city council’s designee on the planning board, City Council President, and a mayoral candidate, took issue with the lack of roadway connectivity given the pedestrian street. In response, Pepe said that per General Development Plan, there will be multiple ways to circulate the building so they decided the street can be a pedestrian plaza instead of a normal one.

“The General Development Plan originally showed that as being a roadway,” Pepe said. “However, we thought this was a better approach because it provides for more space for congregation, and more green space for enjoyment of the residents and people in the neighborhood. All of our retail borders on that open space. It would be a good opportunity for cafe dining, for people to sit outside.”

Consulting City Engineer Andrew Raichl said that the conversion of this right-of-way to a pedestrian street, departing from the General Development Plan, would not affect circulation at the site. However, he suggested maintaining the option to convert the pedestrian street into a normal road in the future if need be, to which Pepe said the redeveloper was agreeable.

“The conversion of this particular right of way from a roadway to a plaza doesn’t have an effect on circulation,” Raichl said. “However, I do think it’s a reasonable condition to just have a city reserve its rights as it’s on the right of way. So we have all the freedom to preserve the right to convert that plaza back into a vehicular road should the conditions require that.”

Pepe added that the street wouldn’t have lined up perfectly with Stanley Avenue. Although Chairwoman Karen Fiermonte was concerned people would use the parking lot as a way to get across in lieu of a street there, suggesting that there be a condition of approval to ensure the city can convert the pedestrian street to a vehicular road if need be.

Small studio unit sizes and signage

Additionally, other commissioners and board professionals, including Consulting City Planner Mika Apte, questioned why there were smaller units than required in the redevelopment plan, which aims to increase minimum unit size to increase desirability. The response was that there was a market demand for the units which are also less expensive, allowing more access to the luxury living that will be afforded by the Aquaview.

“It allows a professional to live independently versus in a roommate situation at a price point that is affordable,” Pepe said. “It’s an open unit plan. This is for a dweller who likes to spend a lot time in the amenity space and around town, is very social, works a lot, is looking to get ahead, and wants to live alone.”

Pepe said the units are popular, and noted they will be along areas where there will be future phases of the redevelopment constructed up against the building and thus did not have windows in the bedroom portion of the unit. The overall building design on the block is like that of a figure eight, with this building laying out the very bottom of that shape.

“This is a phased design, so we have portions of the building that will ultimately have buildings that will be adjacent to them,” Pepe said. “Because of that, we can’t put windows on those facades for future redevelopment. We need to make sure that those facades are ready to take on the next phase of development and attach this building to those buildings.”

However, Pepe ultimately agreed to bump up the 525 square foot units to 550 and work with the city as a condition of approval after more concerns raised by Apte, Ashe-Nadrowski, and Fiermonte. Additionally, Pepe defended the need for the signage variances: “We don’t know who’s going to rent here. Potentially it could go to five different retailers. So we want to make sure we can sign each one of them and have all of them be successful in the community.”

Phase One of Three

Pepe explained that the redeveloper intends to construct the overall project in phases, with this particular building being the first of three. While this is only for 159 units, 791 will eventually encompass the entire site.

Fiermonte and Ashe-Nadrowski asked where people are going to park in the interim while there is construction on the parking lot for the future phases. Pepe said the redeveloper would use an adjacent lot or lease spaces until the construction is complete and Raichl confirmed this was par the course for the area.

“We do control property adjacent to this property,” Pepe said. “We can get to the point of Phase Two without having to shift parking. But I think by time we get to Phase Three, we’re going to have to find an ultimate solution during construction.”

Ashe-Nadrowski emphasized the need to have plan to accommodate residents during all phases, especially the last phase. Apte asked about why the redeveloper was only seeking six stories for this building in an area with zoning that permits 25 stories.

“Wouldn’t it work better with a taller building to make it more compliant?” Apte asked of the building in relation to the redevelopment plan.

In response, Pepe said that this is what the applicant is proposing, not any taller building.

“We feel this is really well placed in the marketplace and is very understood,” Pepe said. “This is the building we chose because of the constructibility and the cost of the construction.”

The board ultimately approved the application with all its variances unanimously, except for the one relating to unit size. As condition of approval the 525 square foot units were increased to 550. If also included other minor conditions of approval, such as that the redeveloper would work with city professionals on the variances it was granted to ensure it is in line with the redevelopment plan.

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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