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Bayonne The promise

New administration needs to overcome some old obstacles to have success

Bayonne Mayor James Davis
Bayonne Mayor James Davis wants to make major changes at the Bayonne waterfront.-(AARON HOUSTON)

Inside the office of Bayonne Mayor James Davis is a reminder of the promise held by the Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne — a framed document formalizing the U.S. Army’s transfer of the 2-mile-long, manmade peninsula to local redevelopment officials.

That was 12 years ago, and it’s a promise that has gone largely unfulfilled.

“To be kind, sporadic activity has occurred,” said Joseph DeMarco, the city’s business administrator since July. “If you took a time-lapsed photo, there really has not been much activity since the Army turned it over to the city in 2002.”

But despite a decade of setbacks, city officials still hope to transform the former terminal into a mixed-use waterfront community that extends New Jersey’s famed Gold Coast — with high-end living, connections to mass transit and striking views of Manhattan.

Essentially, they hope to create an urban hub where it doesn’t currently exist, much like the other two towns featured in this week’s NJBIZ Urban Living Spotlight.

Officials in this city on the Upper New York Bay hope the tide is finally turning. On the eastern edge of the peninsula, which connects to the main part of the 5.8-square-mile municipality, years of litigation have stalled plans for residential and commercial projects near two NJ Transit light rail stops.

Davis said one of the cases was recently settled and has cleared the way for an 850-unit project by developers Fidelco Realty Group, Roseland Property Co. and other partners. The first phase, which calls for 400 units, could actually start construction this spring.

The city now hopes to resolve suits tied to two other properties in a section known as Harbor Station North, said Davis, who took office in July after unseating incumbent Mark Smith.

“It’s been a process since Day One,” Davis said. “To me, when we came into office, the biggest thing was that redevelopment is what’s going to spur the city, what was going to also be the catalyst (and) … help us stabilize taxes.”

The new administration has also taken up the effort to redevelop the southern end of Harbor Station. After inviting developers late last year to submit proposals for the 55-acre zone, city officials compiled a list of six firms that submitted proposals.

The companies pitched everything from luxury rentals and hotels to retail space and a convention center. DeMarco said city officials have since met with “two to three people who have submitted proposals” and are now compiling additional information.

Joshua Burd