While FedEx is getting the ball rolling on the redevelopment of Porete Avenue in North Arlington, it could take a while until the rest of the industrial area is built up.
No developers placed letters of interest and design concepts, in response to the borough's Request for Qualifying candidates.
While dignitaries on the local, county, state and national level, including Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and Congressman Bill Pascrell, were in attendance at the FedEx ground breaking on Monday, Sept. 26 lauding the company for choosing North Arlington, the area has failed to attract other developers.
Potential developers had until Sept. 23 to submit ideas and plans for businesses along Porete Avenue. In July, North Arlington began advertising RFQs for developers to submit plans. According to Robert Ceberio, the borough's economic development planner, North Arlington did not receive any responses to RFQs.
The governing body would like to see warehouses and light industrial-type buildings, Councilman Richard Hughes said.
Ceberio spoke with five of the 13 developers who picked up RFQ packets, all of whom voiced concern with the requests statement to not use eminent domain in order to develop the area. Developers would need to negotiate with the property owners in order to acquire the sites and felt it would have been at an inflated rate, Ceberio said. A property owners' refusal to sell should not affect any plans a potential developer may have, Hughes noted.
"They'll either build around it or build in spite of it," Hughes said, stating that he does not believe many of the Porete Avenue property owners would hold out. "There are a lot of empty buildings or ones in bad shape."
Relationships with business owners could be fostered if developers purchase and redevelop property to provide places for the businesses to operate out of on site.
Additionally, developers are concerned about the level of soil contamination on Porete Avenue sites.
"No one knows the level of contamination around here," Ceberio said, adding the borough can consider looking into state grants that would allow environmental testing on the properties. "Maybe one thing we can do in the interim is to go out and do some testing to give people the opportunity to see what they're dealing with."
Ceberio believes if the level of ground contamination and remediation costs are presented, developers would be more likely to submit proposals.
"We just need to regroup," Ceberio said. "I spoke to the Lieutenant Governor's staff and they indicated they are interested in whatever they can do to help. They have a lot of power and authority to develop this site."
The borough posted their request along with a 62-page document outlining the borough's needs during the summer. The RFQ was open on July 25 and respondents were required to submit their qualifications and concepts for the redevelopment area by Sept. 23.
North Arlington seeks large developers for the area's rehabilitation, according to Hughes.
"There is a Kearny developer doing the same thing," Hughes said. "He bought several blocks of warehouses. He knocked them down and he is in the process of rebuilding more modern facilities."
For a number of years, the borough has looked to redevelop the Porete Avenue area, which borders the New Jersey Meadowlands District on the southeastern corner of North Arlington. In 1990, the 91-acre area was declared an area in need of redevelopment, with a majority of land considered "vacant and underutilized."
According to Ceberio, Porete Avenue is North Arlington's only true industrial area.
The area was previously part of the failed $1 billion EnCap Golf Holdings of Florida project that would have consisted of golf courses, hotels and luxury homes in the Meadowlands. The area is not part of the Meadowlands district, so zoning is decided by North Arlington officials.
After the EnCap failure, North Arlington reconstituted a redevelopment plans that is more conducive to "today's market conditions," Ceberio said.
The redevelopment area consists of 55 parcels within one mile of the New Jersey Turnpike and Routes 7, 17 and 21, and within three miles of the Garden State Parkway and I-78. The area is bounded by the Harrison-Kingsland railroad line on the east, the Bayonne and Jersey City Water supply easement to the south, the Ridge line and Schuyler Avenue to the west and Disposal Road to the north.
"It's really the only area where the town can get what I call clean ratables," Ceberio said. "It has little to no impact on municipal services so the town can enjoy the ratables, which ultimately spill over on tax savings to one and two family homeowners."
According to Hughes, several businesses are currently in operation at the site but many of the area's buildings are in severe disrepair.
There are special laws for redevelopment areas that open up funding or can present methods for fast tracking to a redevelopment board, Hughes said.
"It seems like a cumbersome process and sometimes it is, but it's designed to have an overriding vision of the area rather than one piece at a time," Hughes said.
The site presents several challenges. There is limited access and connections to the area and to major highways. The only access available to the site is through a paper street, which is the right-of-way for the Jersey City-Bayonne waterlines, several contaminated sites, and geotechnical issues. Additionally, much of the area is within the 100 and 500 year floodplains. The proposed traffic light and access road require a permit from the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
According to Ceberio, while Porete Avenue has some challenges, it is strategically close to Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal--making it valuable real estate for warehouse distribution centers.
"This is not set in stone," Hughes said, adding the parameters of the RFQ could be modified.
If a developer has a better way to maximize the property's use, the borough is ready to listen, Hughes said.
"An old beat up, rundown building is not paying a lot of taxes. It's almost abandoned land," Hughes said. "Taxes are miniscule. If a nice, modern warehouse-type building or small factory were built, the value of the property would increase significantly."
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