The Bayonne Planning Board has given their stamp of approval to the next phase of the Woodmont Bay Club redevelopment at the former Bayer site.
Located between West 52nd Street and West 53rd Street, the area is generally defined by rows of “box homes,” an industrial warehouse on 52nd Street, and the nearby Richard Rutkowski Park to the west on the Newark Bay waterfront. Currently, the former Bayer site is a fenced-in vacant lot with a gravel path, denoted by a wooded area to the west of the site bordering the park.
Historically, the site was home to the Mobay Chemical Plant. Prior to its demolition, the plant used to manufacture dyes and pharmaceuticals.
The former Bayer site, part of the Amended Scattered Site Redevelopment Plan, is adjacent to the already constructed first phase of the Woodmont Bay Club between 53rd Street and 54th Street. The four-story 220-unit residential redevelopment at 190 West 54th Street finished construction at the site of the former Hi-Hat catering hall in 2019.
Recently, the Woodmont Bay Club rebranded to the Liberty Bay Club. Now, the redevelopment is expanding under Phase Two.
The application for the project was presented by attorney Peter Wolfson on behalf of Woodmont Bayonne Phase 2 Urban Renewal, LLC. Woodmont was granted approval to construct a four-story, 85-unit apartment community with on-site parking at the three-acre former Bayer site.
Site plan specifics
Of the 85 units, 31 will be one-bedroom units, and 54 will be two-bedroom units. Only 17 of the one-bedroom units will have dens, which will not have closets nor windows and will have a transparent door to prevent the conversion of the room to a bedroom. The first floor will consist of a lobby, a lounge, a fitness area, a leasing office, a mail room, and 19 residential units. There will be 22 units on the second, third and fourth floors.
The planned four-story 85-unit building on the former Bayer site will be accompanied by 138 parking spaces, 40 more than are required per the redevelopment plan. While 130 spaces will be present in a surface lot, there will be a standalone garage with eight spaces. A total of 15 electric vehicle parking spaces are included in the site, with provisions for more, and five compact spaces.
In addition to the L-shaped residential building and garage, the site also proposes a dog run, an outdoor patio, a bike rack, lighting, landscaping, storm water management, and other improvements. A walkway will be added to connect up with the Hackensack RiverWalk in the adjacent Rutkowski Park, and another walkway will connect to the small park at the end of West 53rd Street.
The building constructed during the second phase will share the amenities with the first building, and vice versa. However, it is also being designed as a standalone with its own amenities just in case one of the buildings is ever sold.
The site lighting is designed to be low-level to minimize impacts on the surrounding two- and three-story homes, and the landscaping is also designed to buffer the redevelopment from the neighbors. Woodmont will repave West 52nd Street as part of the improvements, as was done for West 53rd Street during Phase One.
In total, three variances for the application were approved. The first allowed there to be no loading zones as opposed to the required two, another ordinance allowed 44 foot wide driveways as opposed to 10 feet, and the other variance was to allow two driveways instead of one.
Phase Two follows Phase One success
Steven Santola, Vice President and General Counsel of Woodmont Properties, said the first phase of the project in Bayonne has been well received by the market, prompting the second phase. After Phase One was completed, Woodmont was approached by Bayer to redevelop this site.
“It had sort of been left in a half built state for a period of time,” Santola said of the building constructed during the first phase. “We came and made a deal with the prior owner, got the whole thing cleaned up and straightened out and went forward with the redevelopment.”
Santola continued: “We were approached after the construction of that site by the current owner, who is Bayer, since we were the logical redeveloper of this site as well. We met with the city a few times thereafter and they were pleased with the progress and what had gone on in Phase One.”
The former Bayer site is an environmental remediation site that the redevelopment plan is facilitating getting done. The timeline on when that will be completed is not clear, as groundwater results needs to drop below a certain level, Santola said.
“That is ongoing and being conducted by the current property owner,” Santola said of remediation. “It will be brought to residential standards under state law, then be ready to go for us when we start construction.”
While most of the site will be remediated, the contaminated wooded area with the path running through it abutting Rutkowski Park will remain preserved and fenced off, according to project engineer Calisto Berton. Resident Joseph Kaus raised concerns about the project essentially making a private park out of the roughly one-acre wooded area on the west side of the property, to which Berton said the land is contaminated and not suitable for that use.
The site will need extensive grading work due to the terrain and it being in a flood plain, with retaining walls required on one side. Santola said that the redeveloper is far along in the permit process, only needing a sewer permit from the DEP at this point.
In the works for a while
The application for the redevelopment first appeared on the board’s agenda for the July meeting, but attorneys for the applicant sent a letter to the board asking for postponement. The letter did not specify any reason, but asked not to need to provide further notice.
The board voted unanimously to grant the request and the application was postponed for a public hearing on the preliminary and final site plan review at the August 9 board meeting. At that meeting, the application was again postponed until a special meeting on August 22, where board then voted unanimously to approve the plans.
The professionals from Woodmont answered questions from commissioners about garbage and recycling removal by a private hauler, snow removal, and other questions. They also agreed to comply with all asks of the board, as well as the conditions of approval to work with fire department officials on truck access to the parking lot, making it a lease restriction that the den cannot be converted to a bedroom, and that the doors of the dens be transparent.
Those who voted in favor include: Vice Chairwoman and Board of Education President Maria Valado, Commissioner and Mayoral Designee Ramon Veloz, Commissioner and City Councilman At-Large Loyad Booker, Commissioner Michael Quintela, Commissioner Jack Beiro, and Commissioner Ahmed Lack. Chairwoman Karen Fiermonte, Commissioner Thomas Maiorano, and Commissioner George Becker were absent.
Earlier in the year, the Bayonne City Council voted to table a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement for 25 years with Woodmont Bayonne Phase 2 Urban Renewal, LLC to support the project. The financial agreement was postponed twice in October and November of 2021 as it was under review by financial advisors.
However, the ordinance failed to get a second on the motion to open the public hearing at the council’s December meeting. As a result, it died before the council. But now with this approval, a new financial agreement may be penned between the city and Woodmont to support the project.
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