By Ron Leir
A long-derelict commercial site along the Belleville Turnpike is on the path to a rebirth as a “state-of-the-art” industrial park now that the Kearny Planning Board has cleared the way for a subdivision of a tract of land off the Pike.
Attorney Donald Pepe, representing the applicant, said the board’s approval marked “the first step in our redevelopment plan” for the 22-acre site formerly known as Jeryl Industrial Park that stretches up to Schuyler Ave. and borders on Arlington Park Cemetery.
Pepe told the board that granting the subdivision “provides an expedited path to redevelopment and remedial action …. We’re doing cleanup on a piece-by-piece basis to move the project along.”
Pepe’s client, Vincent Alessi, who also has business interests in Bayonne, told the board that Ridge Crossing, the new name for the site, became the leaseholder for the property as of mid-August 2013 and faced many hurdles.
To begin with, Alessi said, an assessment of the site indicated that of the 28 buildings on site, 22 had tenants and “a number of tenants were occupying buildings illegally.” Many structures had been “severely damaged” in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in October 2012, so Ridge Crossing brought in an environmental consultant to deal with asbestos and mold, he said.
Additionally, Alessi said, Ridge Crossing has been “clearing up title issues and liens” that existed on many of the individual tenancies. “We plan to operate this [industrial park] as a long-term owner.” Alessi said that Ridge has taken pains to “bring to the table a laundry list of responsible parties” to deal with outstanding cleanup and financial issues, “like an IRS lien for $19 million.”
Previous efforts to make over the property have failed, Alessi said, “because everybody turned and ran away. So far, we have invested $4 million of our own money in the property. We are very committed to Kearny in the shortterm and the long-term.”
Thus far, Alessi said the development firm has demolished 14 of the 28 buildings and is developing plans to deal with the site’s pothole-strewn topography – including repaving and realigning the private street Turvan Road that runs through the property. It will become “the main driveway to Sellers St.,” Pepe said.
Emergency vehicles will continue to have access to the property from above, via Schuyler Ave., Ridge engineer Jeff Martell said.
Alessi and Martell said the company will install “new drainage” (pipes and inlets) throughout the site to deal with periodic flooding and new phone lines “to run it as one economic unit.” Landscaping and fencing is envisioned as a buffer between the industrial property and the cemetery.
As the first leg of the anticipated transformation of the site, Alessi said Ridge Crossing will focus on renovating Building 29, a 28,640 square feet structure, and Building 30, which takes up 33,130 square feet, as warehouses/ offices, with “parts use” in Building 29 and “dispatch use” in Building 30.
Building 29 will be raised “one foot over the flood hazard elevation,” while Building 30 “is already out of the flood zone,” Pepe said. In April, the company secured a flood hazard permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection “for the entire development site which is good for five years,” said Martell.
Alessi said tenants have been secured for both properties: Garden State Consolidated/ Oak Lodge proposes to run a storage and distribution facility for wines and spirits from Building 29, Monday to Friday, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., and a half-day Saturday, with 15 to 20 employees and, at Building 30, DeSantis Transport, a carrier of high-end electronics, primarily for Apple, “will be relocating from Newark to Kearny where its operation would run 24/7, “except for Saturday night into Sunday,” with 25 to 30 workers, averaging about 10 per shift, he said.
As for the rest of the property, Alessi told the board: “We would hope to be back before you within 45 days” to review further proposals, such as a possible new retail strip along Belleville Turnpike.