Bayonne grants preliminary approval for luxury redevelopment on Newark Bay

Final site plan approval was delayed pending approval of pedestrian access to the site

The Bayonne Planning Board has given the initial okay for a redeveloper to construct a luxury residential building on the Newark Bay waterfront.

During its regular meeting on May 10, the board voted unanimously to grant preliminary site plan approval and to allow the consolidation of two adjacent lots by redeveloper Bayonne Luxury Waterwalk, LLC. The Bayonne City Council adopted the redevelopment plan for the site back in October of 2020, allowing this project to move forward.

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The application was presented to the board by attorney Matthew Posada. The 2.34 acre site at 219 West 5th Street encompasses the former solid waste management Nacirema site. According to Posada, the plans will see a six-story residential building with a mezzanine floor and a 53,567 square feet footprint to be constructed.

To accommodate the 180 units in the building, there will be 256 parking spaces. Some of the parking will be outdoors, consisting of 12 parking spaces for public use along the waterfront walkway it will also construct, while the others will be in a garage built into the first two stories of the building.

“This project is part of that greater vision that the city has for Avenue A,” Posada said. “Although there’s been recent approvals for projects along the Avenue A corridor, we began conversations with this municipality almost four years ago. So we’re ready to see this project get to this point.”

Engineer testifies site specifics

Project engineer Keith Cahill testified that both 211 and 219 would be combined into 219 West 5th Street, at the terminus of the portion of West 5th Street at the Newark Bay on the west side of the Bayonne Bridge.

To the north of the site is the Bayview project, 797 residential units spread out through a 12-story tower and two eight-story towers, with plans for another 12-story tower that would sit next to this redevelopment. To the south of the site is the existing Amazon facility, to the east are commercial properties on West 5th Street, and to the west is Newark Bay.

The existing site consists of mostly truck and car parking as well as two old buildings. The new site plan would transform the area from a rundown industrial use to an active residential use, according to Cahill.

“It’s fully compliant with the redevelopment plan,” Cahill said. “I think it starts to put together a nice new development within the waterfront of the Newark Bay of Bayonne.”

A roundabout will be constructed in front of the building to improve circulation on the currently dead end street. Electric vehicle parking spaces will be constructed, in more than what is required in the redevelopment plan, Cahill said. 

In terms of storm water management, the site will have its own system and will also use pervious coverage with its open space to ensure more rain water is absorbed. The redeveloper also plans on providing other pedestrian and bike access to Avenue A, however, the method in which that is provided is still being worked out.

Three options for pedestrian connectivity

While the redeveloper was initially seeking final site plan approval, part of the reason they were only granted preliminary approval was due to proposed pedestrian access to the site. There were three proposed options to do so, bringing walkability to an area currently only accessibly by vehicle. The first would be to provide a concrete sidewalk on West 5th Street to Avenue A. 

However, concerns of right-of-way use by trucks for the commercial businesses on the street meant there was a need for alternatives. One would be a sidewalk to link with one of the buildings of the Bayview site. But if this project occurs first, they would need an alternative because the current state of that site is an off-grade parking lot. So the third option would be for a pedestrian path to be constructed along the property line of the back of the buildings on West 5th Street.

“This way, the board and the professionals would not have to be concerned about making significant changes to West 5th Streets right-of-way to prevent trucks from parking there,” Cahill said. “It can operate as it does today. And we won’t have to worry about our neighbor to our north not constructing.”

Cahill said that the path can always be connected with the sidewalk of the Bayview project when construction proceeds. As part of a condition for issuance of certificate of occupancy, he said the redeveloper would work with the city professionals as well as their neighbor to decide which of the three options is the most viable. Consulting City Engineer Andrew Raichle agreed with the assessment that West 5th Street is possible for the pedestrian access, but noted one of the alternatives would better suit the site.

Board professionals voice concerns

Raichle and City Planner Suzanne Mack both advised the board to word the condition of approval to ensure the applicant would come back to have the board determine the final access. Raichle said it was best this way as to not put the decision on one person alone.

Board Attorney Richard Campisano asked if the board was going to make the developer come back after the building is constructed for pedestrian access approval. Raichle said yes, because the redeveloper wouldn’t want to have the building built but unoccupied, per the redeveloper’s suggestion to sort the pedestrian access out prior to the issuance of a certificate of occupancy to allow residents to move in.

Campisano contended the board may be in awkward position with the redeveloper potentially needing pedestrian access through West 5th Street if it can’t get access with the Bayview property. Raichle agreed, and suggested the redeveloper come back for approval of the walkway prior to the building being constructed. He added that it could be a condition prior to the issuance of building permits rather than a condition of occupancy.

Campisano asked in a suggesting manner if the board was granting final site plan approval or preliminary site plan approval. Raichle acknowledged that granting preliminary site plan approval was a viable option, with final site plan approval being granted after the pedestrian access solution is finalized.

Chairwoman Karen Fiermonte asked about taking the preliminary approval route, questioning if the board could only hear about the pedestrian access and any changes made to the plans as opposed to rehearing the same testimony again. Campisano said that could happen if the board granted condition of approval worded that way. In response to further questions from Fiermonte, Campisano said it wouldn’t hold up process.

Raichle echoed Campisano that the preliminary approval still delivers the same outcome to the redeveloper. However, he noted that the board shouldn’t limit it to just testimony on the access. Fiermonte agreed, and Campisano noted the condition would include the board reserving the right to streamlined testimony of the full application as well as on the pedestrian connectivity.

Neighbor curious, but on board

Van Ripps, the president of Palmer Asphalt at 191 West 5th Street, a neighboring business on the same side of street as the planned redevelopment, questioned about site lighting. Cahill said the lighting would not block circulation of trucks in right of way, and would work with engineers to ensure it.

Ripps said the aforementioned trucks parked on the street are currently due to the renter of the Nacirema property. When redevelopment begins, then trucks won’t be there, Ripps said.

According to Ripps, he wants Palmer Asphalt to coexist peacefully with the new residential development. So he also asked redeveloper to consider the new traffic count with new residents in the area amid existing commercial traffic. Ripps said the entry to Amazon is adjacent to the property and that he was eager to see a traffic study.

Ripps noted he had written a letter to the board previously outlining several notes on the matter. But overall, he was pleased with the plans, especially those to address the pedestrian connectivity to the site without having it directly on West 5th Street.

“As a neighbor on the block, it addresses a lot of concerns of safety issues,” Ripps said. “I think they’re good options.”

While other witnesses were set to provide testimony, Posada then asked for approval considering the board was now looking at preliminary site plan approval as opposed to final site plan approval. In turn, the board granted the preliminary approval with condition they would need to come back for final site plan approval with a confirmed pedestrian connectivity plan. The board also voted unanimously to approve the consolidation of the two lots. On May 23, the board adopted a resolution finalizing the preliminary approval.

Other development details

While testimony on May 10 did not touch on it, plans show the E-shaped building will have a varied façade of grey and beige materials and a number of amenities. The first two stories of the project will have garage-covered parking, bicycle racks, garbage rooms, mechanical rooms, a mail box and electronic package room, storage spaces, and a lobby. The third floor through the mezzanine floor will include the residential units, an interior pool with lounge space, amenity decks, and a gym.

The units will be a combination of studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units. There will be 14 studio units, 111 one-bedroom units, and 55 two-bedroom units. The unit mix will also include a total of 49 duplex units consisting of one-bedrooms with loft space and two-bedrooms with loft space.

The planning board will meet next on June 14 at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall at 630 Avenue C. For more information, go to bayonnenj.org.

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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