on Tue May 22 14:57:41 2012
Bayfront is a former Honeywell site contaminated with chromium, scheduled to be cleaned up and redeveloped into residential areas. Wait until you see how much the HBLR extension is supposed to cost (and it's to be 3,700 feet away from West Side Avenue station) . . .
Wall Street Journal
*That's $304 million per mile. And remember, NJT tore down the existing right of way that used to cross Route 440, back when they first built the HBLR's West Side division.
NY REAL ESTATE RESIDENTIAL | May 21, 2012, 9:41 p.m. ET
Cleanup Mapped for N.J. Toxic Site
By LAURA KUSISTOJERSEY CITY—Not long ago, city officials here and Honeywell International Inc. were at war over the fate of more than 100 acres of chromium-contaminated land on the city's gritty western edge.
Now they are development partners.
The city and the Morris Township-based technology and manufacturing conglomerate want to develop an old industrial dumping ground into a sprawling new neighborhood called Bayfront on the shore of the Hackensack River.
Its up to 8,100 residential units, one million square feet of office space and 20 acres of parks and plazas are still far from reality. Ground won't break until 2016 at the earliest, and no one expects the project to be finished before 2040.
But it took an important step forward last week when NJ Transit began an environmental assessment of a crucial element of the plan: extending the Light Rail 3,700 feet to connect Bayfront to the rest of the region's public transit.
NJ Transit said Monday it is behind the project. "An extension of the light rail to this area would both support the development and address traffic congestion along Route 440," a nearby highway, said spokeswoman Nancy Snyder.
To be sure, Bayfront's success is uncertain. Transit authorities say the Light Rail extension would cost about $213 million,* it would cost the city and Honeywell more than $80 million to move two large facilities to make way for the project, and Honeywell has spent $500 million to clean up the site and will have to spend an estimated $50 million in addition.
It isn't clear that anyone will want to live on formerly contaminated land in an industrial neighborhood.
The project's progress will be closely watched—locally as a measure of another Jersey City attempt at revitalization and nationally as a test of Honeywell's ability to make it in the real-estate business under its unusual deal with the city.
"The reality is most industrial companies don't want to be in real-estate business. It's typically not a comfortable fit," said Mary Hashem, an executive vice president at Brownfield Partners, a real-estate development firm that specializes in contaminated sites.
Honeywell—primarily a maker of aerospace, building control and safety products—has been involved before in the redevelopment of several contaminated sites around the country, including Inner Harbor in Baltimore and El Segundo, Calif.
Participating in the redevelopment could help improve its image in the community and potentially make back some fraction of the cost of the clean up. They would also be able to oversee the redevelopment to make sure it is done responsibly.
Rick Kriva, Honeywell's vice president for global real estate, said the main motive of the company—which has 1,700 employees in New Jersey—is to help rejuvenate Jersey City. "Honeywell is an important part of the community. We feel that this is the right thing to do," Mr. Kriva said in an interview.
The project has drawn criticism, including from Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy's potential re-election opponent, Steven Fulop, a city councilman.
In the current economic and political environment, Mr. Fulop said the project is unlikely to get the funding it needs from cash-strapped state and federal governments for the Light Rail component. He said it would likely have to be scaled back.
"Nobody in the city wants to continue to see it be vacant, but at some point the city is going to have to potentially recalibrate how it's approaching that development with Honeywell," said Mr. Fulop.
The site's history of contamination dates back to the late 19th century, when wetlands were filled in by chromium waste from a nearby plant owned by Mutual Chemical Co., which made the substance used as an anti-corrosive in shipbuilding, among other purposes. The plant closed in 1954.
The slag was covered over with gravel. On top of the slag were built the Valley Fair Department Store, a drive-in movie theater and other small businesses. The trouble became clear in the 1980s when the walls of the department store began to crack from the chromium heaving underneath.
The buildings were vacated, and the site largely has been abandoned ever since. Honeywell took over in the late 1990s when it merged with the site's former custodian, Allied Signal, an equipment manufacturer.
In 2005, the city decided to make a move, suing Honeywell to clean up the site and for up to $80 million in lost tax revenue. They settled in 2008 after agreeing to develop the area together.
"This is something that started out as litigation and a dispute, where we were simply seeking to compel Honeywell to clean up this chromium and to get this revenue," said William Matsikoudis, an attorney for the city. "It evolved into this public-private partnership to create a transformative development on our city's west side."
Now, the city and Honeywell are working out the project's design, which would include two large parks. When the site is sold to developers to carry out those plans, they would split the estimated $100 million to $300 million: 60% for Honeywell and 40% for the city, based on how much land each contributed.
Mr. Healy, Jersey City's mayor, talks of creating a "green coast" on the city's west side that would rival what he sees as the successful revitalization of the city's east side.
The site is one of the largest and most polluted of dozens of chromium-contaminated sites in Jersey City's 15 square miles.
"What was once highly toxic brownfields will become…residential neighborhoods, significant open space and community features," Mr. Healy said in a statement.
Environmentalists see the project—should it ever be completed—as a boon not only for the city but for the Hackensack River, a neglected body of water with a history of heavy pollution.
"It's going to be a real improvement over the broken-down, post-industrial landscape that's dotted the river there for the last 30 years," Bill Sheehan, of the Hackensack Riverkeeper, an environmental group.
Corrections & Amplifications:Honeywell International Inc. has spent $500 million to clean up a contaminated site in Jersey City and will have to spend an estimated $50 million in addition. An earlier version of this article incorrectly implied Honeywell still needs to spend $500 million to clean up the site and a future development would be built on still-contaminated land.