By Ron Leir
So now it’s up to the developers.
The long and winding road leading to an old industrial site and environs in south Kearny has taken another turn with the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC)’s vote Feb. 27 to adopt the Koppers Coke Peninsula Redevelopment Plan.
That action opens the door for private concerns to submit proposals to transform a longtime blighted and partially contaminated 367- acre meadows tract in south Kearny into a productive ratable and job producer.
Developers have been invited, in particular, to key in on about 215 acres comprising three properties owned by the Town of Kearny (the 25-acre former Standard Chlorine Superfund site), the Hudson County Improvement Authority (the 170-acre former Koppers Coke Seaboard Co.) and Tierra Solutions (the 20-acre former Diamond Shamrock site).
Those property owners have agreed to jointly market those lands as a way to maximize their potential development value. Developers would have the option of pitching for the combined lots or focusing on them individually.
“We hope it’s a collective decision,” said Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos, “but if not, each owner would still control his own property.”
Santos said preferable land uses would include light manufacturing and warehousing whose operators could take advantage of close proximity to key transportation routes such as the N.J. Turnpike, Rt. 280 and Rts. 1&9 to access Port Newark and New York City.
Other permitted uses listed by the NJMC redevelopment plan include: transport support services such as truck stops and service stations, data centers, business support services, retail, hotels, boat sales and rentals and repair facilities, “flex spaces” (low rise structure with high ceilings and open floor plan), power generation facility for “serving single or multiple properties within the redevelopment area boundary,” and heliport.
The redevelopment plan rules out residential uses and solid waste transfer stations, Santos said. It also disallows container storage as a principal use and limits railroad terminals or yards to “no more than 25 acres.” It calls for minimum lowest finished floor elevations for buildings in designated 100-year flood zones to “one foot above the applicable 100-year base flood elevations determined from the FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps.
“There’ve already been over 50 requests for RFPs (Requests For Proposals) from prospective developers,” the mayor said, “so we know there’s interest out there.” How many will actually submit proposals remains to be seen.
The Koppers Coke Peninsula redevelopment plan looks to increase the development potential of all 74 properties in the redevelopment area by expanding permitted lot coverage by 10 to 20% and reducing setbacks to ensure more flexibility on configuring buildings on a site.
The redevelopment area is bounded, generally, by the Hackensack River to the north and east, Rt. 7 (Belleville and Newark Turnpike) – including properties on Cross Pike Drive and Fish House Road – to the south, and the Kearny Brackish Marsh to the west. Nearly one-quarter of the redevelopment area (about 88 acres) “contains land area utilized, either currently or formerly, as rights of way for roadways, rail, and utilities,” many of which are vacant or underutilized, according to the plan.
Many properties, the plan notes, “contain evidence of soil, groundwater and/ or surface water contamination, with many properties in various stages of remediation,” such as the contiguous sites of Koppers Coke, Standard Chlorine and Diamond Shamrock [which] comprise the majority of the redevelopment area.”
With such deficiencies in mind, the NJMC will require developers to undertake improvements to utility, transportation and municipal infrastructure to support their projects, to submit a traffic impact study, to provide buffers adjacent to wetlands areas, and to “perform any environmental clean-up deemed necessary, in accordance with New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection requirements.”