The Bayfront Redevelopment Project, a plan to convert a former brownfield to a 100-acre housing development, is set to break ground by the end of the year. Last month, the Jersey City Planning Board approved the plan for the first building unanimously. Once the development project is completed, it will be the biggest mixed-income development in the Tri-State area. Read on to learn more about this transformative project in Jersey City.
About the Bayfront Property
The 100 acres that make up the Bayfront parcel have a long history. The land is on the West Side of Jersey City, bordered by Route 440 on the east and the Hackensack River on the west. The parcel has a half-mile of contiguous waterfront property, making it a valuable site for flood mitigation.
Originally the space was used as a dock for the Morris Canal, used by coal companies and other manufacturing industries from the 1840s up until the Morris Canal’s decline in the early 20th century. During that time chemicals were dumped into the water and entered the soil. One example is Mutual Chemical, which had manufactured and dumped the dangerous chemical chromium until its closure in 1954. Starting sometime in the 1950s, part of the site was then used as a waste processing plant. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), chromium exposure may lead to “respiratory irritation, kidney damage, liver damage, pulmonary congestion and edema, upper abdominal pain, nose irritation and damage, respiratory cancer, skin irritation, and erosion and discoloration of the teeth.”
Through another business acquisition, Honeywell International took over the Mutual Chemical site in 1999, where chromium and other chemical waste were dumped. The facility eventually closed, but the waste remained. A group of Jersey City residents sued Honeywell to compel the company to clean up the site. The company had been working with the state of New Jersey since the 1980s, but the plaintiffs claimed that it was taking too long. A judge agreed and mandated that Honeywell remediate the site. At the time, the estimated cost of remediation for the site was $400 million.
Following that, another group of Jersey City residents filed a class action lawsuit against Honeywell, alleging that “the generation, disposal and historical failure to properly remediate these chromium sites and associated contamination caused a loss of use and enjoyment, and other property damages to properties in the surrounding neighborhoods.” A settlement was reached, requiring the company to put over $10 million in a trust for eligible claimants to access.
The site continued to be plagued with various lawsuits throughout the early aughts relating to chromium exposure. Three class action lawsuits were filed against Honeywell by residents near the Bayfront, former workers on the site, and nonprofits like the Hackensack Riverkeepers in 2010 and 2011. The cases were consolidated and reached a settlement worth over $10 million in 2018.
The remediation work was completed in 2016, and in 2018, Jersey City bought a portion of Honeywell’s land for $170 million. The total parcel that Jersey City owns is 95 acres. The $170 million bond that the City approved to make the purchase was committed to the purchase of the land, development of infrastructure, and demolition of existing buildings on the parcel.
About the Plan
Part of Phase 1 of the Master Plan of the Bayfront Redevelopment Project, published and last updated in January 2021, is to build a six-story building to be named the Bayfront Promenade. The mixed-income building will have about 209 units, 35% of which will be affordable to households earning up to 60% of Area Median Income.
According to the Master Plan of the Bayfront Redevelopment Project, the space adjacent to Society Hill on the Hackensack River will eventually include 8,000 new residential units, a new Light Rail stop, a new elementary school, 340,000 square feet of commercial space, and a new waterfront walkway. The Plan asserts that the “large-scale development creates the opportunity for Bayfront to become a new mixed-use ‘downtown’ for the entire West side.” The Plan includes the development of a water taxi to and from Newark International Airport and Kearny.
Developers Pennrose LLC and Omni America LLC are jointly developing the building as Bayfront Development Partners LLC. Pennrose has worked with Jersey City before on the development of the mixed-use and affordable housing community Gloria Robinson Court Homes III & IV on 330 Duncan Avenue. Pennrose also has developments all over the country including Atlanta, Cincinnati, Denver, and Hartford. Omni America’s development portfolio is exclusively in New York with most of its previous development projects in the Bronx and Queens.
Plans for the Bayfront Promenade were approved in October 2022. At the time, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said, “This marks a major milestone as we successfully move forward with the Bayfront redevelopment project, which has already triggered interest, investment, and revitalization within the City’s Greenville and West Side neighborhoods,” said Mayor Fulop. “The transformation of the formerly contaminated site into the largest mixed-income community in the region serves as a model for sustainable and affordable mixed-income development. To take it a step further, throughout the redevelopment process, we require job prioritization for local residents during and after construction, public access along the Hackensack River Waterfront, and flood mitigation infrastructure, among other key elements to ensure our community benefits most.”
While many observers thought that the project would get started in 2023, the most recent development is a financial one. In September 2023, the Jersey City Council approved a 30-year tax break for the developers. The agreement, also known as Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT), was unanimously approved by the council with the goal of getting the construction underway as soon as possible.
The Master Plan of the Bayfront Redevelopment Project gives credit to a “coalition of activists — the Interfaith Community Organization and Jersey City Together, [who] advocated for the cleanup of the site.”