By Ron Leir
Signs of the beginning of a Kearny recovery from the national recession’s grip are suggested by movement on four local fronts to upgrade real estate.
First, there is the meadows-area property known as Jeryl Industrial Park at 590 Belleville Turnpike which, in June 2012, the Kearny Planning Board voted to designate as an area in need of redevelopment after hearing Red Bank consultant Susan Gruel describe the 31-acre tract as a “dilapidated, deteriorated area with a significant number of vacant buildings and outdoor storage.”
Because many of the buildings on the site are riddled by fire and structure code violations, the town Construction Enforcement office has denied certificates of occupancy to some existing and prospective tenants.
Plus, there are environmental issues still to be dealt with, notably the presence of chromium at various portions of the site, for some of which a company called Tierra Solutions has agreed to take cleanup responsibilities.
And the private street – Turvan Road – that winds through the tract is compromised by cracked asphalt and gaping potholes that fill with water during rainstorms.
But of late, there are indications that some positive steps may be undertaken by a potential successor owner, according to Town Administrator Michael Martello. Martello said he met Oct. 10 with principals of Alessi Organization Management LLC of Bayonne, who, he said, are currently leasing the Jeryl property and have a contract to purchase the site to renovate it.
In prior months, Martello said, “we had to go to court to remove illegal tenants.” But recently, he said, the Alessi contingent “has removed some [tenants] and intends to remove all of them” as soon as those buildings are demolished.
Martello said that the Alessi group assured him that they will hire security personnel to “patrol the site to prevent illegal dumping of concrete and dirt” on the grounds. The group has filed an application with the town for permits to install road barriers to block unwanted vehicles, he said.
Martello said Alessi plans to tear down Buildings 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 15, 16, 18A, 18B, 19, 23 and 26. He said the firm wants to try to relocate one of the tenants, a truck parts & service company, which now occupies Buildings 20A and 20C and 22 into Building 30 and move another tenant, a wine distributor, from Building 26 into Building 29.
Building 30, which the owners got local approvals to put up as a warehouse distribution facility in 2007-2008, was only partly constructed and left incomplete, Martello said. “It currently complies with mandated flood elevation levels.” Building 29 is an approved office/warehouse structure, he said.
Martello said that the structures that comprise Building 18 are tainted by chromium and that testing has detected heavy metals elsewhere on the site and “the only way we can do a cleanup is to demolish the buildings involved.” He said the owners “already have an LSRP (Licensed Site Remediation Professional) assigned to the site.”
Once the environmental cleanup and demolition are done – and it’s unclear how long that would take – then the Alessi group would put up “eight to 10 new buildings” of the type characterizing an “industrial/ warehouse district,” Martello said.
And before that could happen, the town would first have to “adopt a redevelopment plan” for the site, Martello said. The plan would go to the Kearny Planning Board for a public hearing, he said.
Efforts to reach members of the Alessi Organization to get their version of what they are planning for the industrial park property were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, along part of the uptown central business district, there are plans to convert the old Lynn Chevrolet showroom/ sales office at 461 Kearny Ave. to a chain pharmacy, according to Martello.
No plans have yet been filed but Martello said that if those plans hold, Kearny would get its first Walgreens at the site.
To facilitate that, Martello said the old auto center structure – which became a casualty of the 2008 recession – would be taken down, along with two commercial buildings just north of the old showroom, the Irish Quality Shop and the former Teddy’s Lounge.
Additionally, he said, two houses on Quincy Ave., southwest of the showroom, would also be demolished to accommodate a drive-thru option for the drug store, with an entrance off Kearny Ave. and exit via Quincy.
And there is activity afoot in South Kearny’s industrial section, both involving sections of the sprawling River Terminal property, each now owned by different members of the Neu family.
RTC Properties, located off the Passaic River shoreline, was granted approval by the Planning Board in August to construct a 65,728 square foot building with a 10,000 square foot mezzanine at 170 Central Ave. as a connection between previously board-approved and partly-constructed buildings at 50 Cable Drive and 120 Central Ave.
In its application to the board, RTC said the proposed building was needed to more effectively house one of its tenants, Fedway wholesale liquor distributors, which required a “large warehouse above the flood stage,” particularly since – as testimony disclosed – the tenant “lost 60% of their product and all of its telecommunications and computers” during Superstorm Sandy.
However, as Fedway Executive Vice President Robert Sansone advised the board at the Aug. 7 hearing, Fedway – with 228 employees, 85 truck routes and 25 trailers – has recovered from that loss and has recently signed a 25-year lease to stay in Kearny because its new building, after being raised to a higher elevation to prevent flooding, will be insurable. The buildings need to be connected “to provide the necessary square footage and accessibility,” the application said. The board approved a parking variance for the project.
Finally, RTL Services Inc. (now known as Kearny Point Industrial Park), based off the Hackensack River side of the Peninsula, successfully petitioned the mayor and Town Council to vote Oct. 9 to direct the Planning Board to investigate whether the area containing 77 and 90 S. Hackensack Ave. “and nearby property, if necessary” qualifies as a redevelopment area.
The property, part of the old Federal Shipyard area, “was hurt very badly by Sandy,” said Andrew Feuerstein, an attorney for Kearny Point, and now the new FEMA flood elevation maps mandate higher building elevations in the area as a precaution against possible future flooding.
So, Feuerstein said, his clients “want to build a first class facility at Kearny Point Industrial Park,” a warehousing/distribution center comprising 2 million square feet of space spread among 24 buildings with 26 employees. “Now we want to grow,” he said.
Asked for more details, however, Feuerstein said it would be “premature to talk about what we’re doing there while the planning process is going on. We have engaged a consultant to assist with that planning. Our hope is to attract first class tenants.”