Bayonne takes action on former Frank Theatres

The addition will nearly double the square footage of the building

The Bayonne Planning Board has granted amended final site plan approval for the adaptive reuse of the former Frank Theatres at 191 LeFante Way. The new plan includes the expansion of the second floor and an addition of a partial third floor.

The board voted unanimously to approve the application. It was presented to the board by attorney Donald Pepe at the board’s June 29 special meeting.

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Redeveloping Frank Theatres

The site is currently being redeveloped by South Cove Development IV, LLC and South Cove Development, LLC, subsidiaries of the Alessi Organization. The redeveloper was granted final site approval for the adaptive reuse of the building back in March of 2021, with the board adopting a resolution supporting that in April.

“We’re talking about the existing theatre building,” Pepe said. “We are looking to amend an application that was previously approved back in 2021.” 

There will be new commercial and retail establishments, professional and medical offices, and customary accessor uses which are permitted uses under the redevelopment plan for the site. The application will see the expansion of the building area and building height of the former theatre.

“What we’re looking to do right now is add approximately 32,000 square feet to what was previously approved,” Pepe said. He noted the additional square footage would bring the total to approximately 76,000 square feet.

No changes are proposed to the building footprint, the limit of disturbance, or site work approved in 2021. The land uses are all permitted and no bulk variances are required. The only variance sought was to have two loading docks instead of three. However, the redeveloper was also granted approval that the application be deemed amended to include a request for any additional approvals.

“The uses that are proposed are all permitted uses,” Pepe said. “With the exception of the requirement for three loading docks, the application we are submitting is fully conforming.”

Experts testify on the planned changes

The project engineer Sam Renauro testified that the initial application received approval in April of 2021.

“The application was previously for expanding the existing shopping center and expanding the former theatre on the site,” Renauro said. “The application in 2021 included some changes to the uses for that building. We plan to expand that building further, with an additional 32,000 square feet approximately.”

While the building footprint is not changing, the height of the building and square footage on the second floor is increasing. And a third floor is being added.

Renauro testified that the application meets the parking requirements because of shared parking for a shopping center. The site is required to have 691 parking spaces, but actually has over 1,042 shared parking spaces which work well for the variety of uses.

One less loading zone than required

According to Renauro, the application sought a variance for one less loading zone than is required for a building of that height. The two loading zones will also act as garbage enclosures for the building.

Per recommendations from city professionals, the redeveloper agreed to add bike parking spaces and four electric vehicle spaces. 

Commissioner Ramon Veloz asked about the type of tenants in the building to which Pepe said they are to be determined: “We haven’t identified tenants for all the spaces yet. It could change… this is a difficult market to get tenants.”

Vice Chairwoman Maria Valado asked if the loading docks would be away from the preschool, to which Renauro confirmed it was an at-grade loading zone on the other side of the building.

Bike parking, electric vehicle parking, and shared parking

Consulting City Engineer Andrew Raichle said that the shared parking was okay because they were over their requirement. He also noted that the lot is usually empty. 

Raichle also clarified that the four electric vehicle parking spaces were just for this part of the site, with more expected to be added to the entire complex over time. 

Mack agreed, noting that when the applicant comes back for further approval at the complex, the board would enforce new electric vehicle parking ratios required after the initial application for this part of the site was approved in 2021. 

“They’re going to be coming back again,” Mack said. “They’re going to be doing a hotel and residential, and as those site plans applications come in, we would then recommend that the board apply the new regulation to each part of the site. We’re not looking to suggest South Cove Commons have four electric vehicle spaces, we’re suggesting that this one building have four electric vehicle spaces.”

Project architect Jose Santos testified that the first floor square footage would remain the same. The first floor square footage remains at 33,101, the second floor square footage increases from 9,758 to 30,762. And the new third floor square footage would total 12,810.

“On the third floor, there’s space for two tenants,” Santos said. “Surrounding that portion of the third floor is the roof itself.”

Modern revamp of old theatre

According to Santos, the theatre’s exterior will see a modern revamp even though it is an adaptive reuse of the existing structure.

“Everyone knows the previous theatre building that had a dated look,” Santos said. “We will definitely make it a modern and urban site.”

Santos echoed much of Renauro’s testimony. Additionally, project planner Matthew Flin also testified to the new specifics of the application.

In closing, Pepe touted the amended application as a benefit to the city: “I think it’s quite clear that actually the third floor addition to this building adds a lot more aesthetic interest. The buidling overall is going to provide for some medical uses, which I think are a great addition to the community given the number of residences that are going to be developed and that are in the process of being developed in very close proximity to this site.”

Chairwoman Karen Fiermonte applauded the addition of bike and electric vehicle parking. She also agreed shared parking was okay due to the empty nature of the large lot. 

The board then voted unanimously to approve the application.

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

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