FedEx Freight pitched for Porete Ave.


The long vacant Bethlehem Steel site on Porete Ave. is targeted for development as a FedEx Freight distribution center, it was disclosed at last Thursday’s meeting of the mayor and Borough Council.

The governing body took the first step in the process of making that happen by voting to authorize borough attorney Randy Pearce and planning consultant Susan Gruel to prepare amendments to the Porete Ave. Redevelopment Plan to accommodate the proposed plant for the council to formally consider when it meets next month.

Then, Pearce said, the amended redevelopment plan will be submitted to the borough Planning Board for its input in October. And, ultimately, it would fall to the Planning Board to judge the merits of the FedEx Freight venture when a “full-blown application” for the project is submitted, he said.

Last Thursday, Jersey City attorney Ronald Shaljian, representing the property lessee Porete Development LLC and principal Moishe Mana, reminded the mayor and council that the owner Meadowlands Ventures had previously pitched a deal with FedEx for the 44-acre Bethlehem Steel site but after “negotiations didn’t work out,” his client signed a ground lease for the property in May 2014.

As a sign of good faith, Shaljian said that because the project site is in a redevelopment zone, his client — who proposes to redevelop the property with the borough and lease it to FedEx Freight — would be entitled to ask for a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) deal but he said his client has opted to pay the normal property taxes for the land and improvements.

Additionally, Shaljian said, the developer welcomes “the opportunity to be a good neighbor” by sacrificing 1.5 acres of the project site to develop – at a cost projected at $3 million – a two-way roadway dedicated to public access to connect to the Belleville Turnpike as a safer alternative to the current passage from Porete to the Pike.

As things stand now, noted Daniel Miola of Langan Engineering, the project’s consulting engineer, “Trucks wanting to go south on the Belleville Turnpike [coming up the hill from Porete] have to go onto Schuyler Ave. and make a Uturn to come back around.”

At full buildout, the project should generate “150 jobs initially,” Shaljian said, but there will be many more as the facility “matures” and expands.

Miola said plans called for a 139,000 square foot trucking distribution terminal for FedEx Freight with 167 dock doors plus a 23,000 square foot secondary building dedicated to truck maintenance and repair, a 10,000 square foot office building and parking for up to 215 employees and five visitors.

To the north, west and east of the project site, the developer would install a storm water management system including runoff basins, Miola said.

But, Miola added, this won’t be an easy build because of topographical and regulatory challenges.

Because the site sits on 50- foot deep “very compressible” clay soil, those conditions “will require the buildings to be pile-supported to depths of over 100 feet” and that work alone will likely add $5 million to the overall project cost, Miola said, “but we’re able to stomach that.”

And because the project site “sits in a flood plain,” there will likely have to be some elevation of the land involved, particularly to ensure that the public access road is not subsumed by excess storm water, he said.

Another hurdle that Miola said the project must overcome is an time-consuming government permit process which includes approvals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the state Department of Transportation – a process that could take many months to a year.

Kevin Kiernan, representing FedEx as a project manager, said that the proposed operation would run “24/7” and, as the enterprise expands, “there is an opportunity for just south of 3,000 jobs” over a period of 15 years.

In a prepared statement released after Thursday’s meeting, Mayor Joseph Bianchi said he welcomed news of the venture. “We have kept our promise to increase our tax base which has been in trouble for the last 10 years. We have not seen new development in this town for a long, long time. More importantly, it is a ratable which has a minimum impact on municipal services and that maximizes the tax return to the town.”

Learn more about the writer ...