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May 2009
Volume 5, Number 1
Former Hive of Industry, Harrison Redevelops with Transit

Located across the Passaic River from Newark, the town of Harrison’s past and future is intrinsically linked to its public transit accessibility. PATH trains depart every 3-5 minutes during rush hour, connecting Harrison with Newark, Jersey City, Hoboken, and New York City, a 20-minute ride away. At Newark Penn Station, PATH riders can transfer to NJ TRANSIT’s Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast Line (both offering one-stop connections to Newark Liberty International Airport and Secaucus Junction rail station) as well as Raritan Valley Line trains, the Newark Light Rail system and numerous bus lines. The town is also well-served by buses that connect to NJ TRANSIT train stations, the Newark subway, PATH stations, and the cities of Newark, New York City, Elizabeth, and Jersey City, among others.

With this outstanding transit accessibility, the 1.2-square mile community has embarked on an ambitious effort to remake itself through its Waterfront Redevelopment Plan. The vision outlined in the plan calls for the transformation of 275 acres of obsolete industrial facilities into a new transit-oriented, pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use development along the town’s riverfront. Historically, the town's economic engine was heavy industry, with manufacturing mostly situated in its southern third. Called a ''hive of industry'' by President William Howard Taft in 1910, Harrison adopted the nickname, adding it to the town flag. This label was applicable until the late 1960s when the bulk of Harrison's industry had left. From the mid-1970s to the 1990s, the town lost more than $150 million in business ratables from its tax rolls and was faced with a rapidly deteriorating and underutilized industrial area.

Preliminary efforts at revitalization date from the mid-1990s. In 1997, the Harrison Town Council deemed the southern industrial area “in need of redevelopment” and two years later the Harrison Redevelopment Agency was formed. After a multi-year planning process coordinated between Harrison and a number of private developers by the community planning and design firm, Heyer, Gruel & Associates LLC, the Waterfront Redevelopment Plan (49 MB) was born with the vision of transforming southern Harrison. The plan provides a 20-year framework to re-make the area with more than 7,000 new residential units in a range of sizes and prices, 3.4 million square feet of office space, more than one million square feet of retail space, an entertainment complex with a 25,000-seat soccer arena for the Major League soccer team the New York Red Bulls, street-level retail, and a waterfront gateway park. All new housing, jobs, shopping, entertainment and recreational opportunities will be within walking distance of the Harrison PATH station which is so well linked to the state's transit network.

RiverParkatHarrison

River Park at Harrison

The designated redevelopment area encompasses about 35 percent of the town, covering most of the area south of I-280, straddling both sides of the PATH station and stretching to the Passaic River. The redevelopment area is located in the midst of existing residential, commercial, and office uses in Harrison, as well as across the river in Newark, and existing community facilities. The redevelopment effort will build upon the area’s existing infrastructure, including roads, public transportation, and water, electric and sewer facilities, but will also require upgrades to accommodate the higher densities and new uses. The plan calls for a new road network with on-street parking, wide sidewalks, and street trees.

A number of projects are underway:

  1. Along the waterfront, Millrose Developers, a joint venture between Millennium Homes and Roseland Property Company, is completing the first phase of River Park at Harrison. The project is located in the River Park District between First Street and the Passaic River. This first phase will include 313 housing units and a riverwalk park along the Passaic waterfront. The first half of River Park is complete and the second half is underway. The process of securing the land and the necessary approvals for a second phase has begun, but is expected to take some time to finalize. The second phase, expected to include a southerly extension of the new neighborhood and riverwalk, is about a year away from entering the development approval process. Millrose has been designated to redevelop an area encompassing 14 blocks located north of the PATH line. When completed, the entire project will include a total of 1,000 new residences, 40,000 square feet of neighborhood retail, and 800,000 square feet of commercial/office space.
  2. The Harrison Commons project is a joint venture between Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund; The Pegasus Group; Endeavour, LLC; Applied Harrison, LLC; and Harrison Commons, LLC. Located north of the PATH station, the project is in the midst of Phase 1 with a 1,650-car garage (in concert with the Hudson County Improvement Authority,) 477 residential units and 35,000 square feet of ground floor retail under construction along Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard. Approval for Phase II, which includes an additional 255 units with 14,750 square feet of retail on the boulevard, is under review by the planning board. 
  3. RedBullArena
    Under Construction
    Red Bull Arena
  4. The Red Bull soccer arena is currently under construction by the team’s ownership. Expected to open in time for the 2010 season, the arena is located just 0.3 miles from the Harrison PATH station.
  5. Advance Realty, the designated redeveloper for the entire area south of the PATH station, is working on infrastructure to extend the street grid and create eight new city blocks. This will lay the framework for a new neighborhood surrounding the Red Bull Arena. Advance Realty’s vertical site plan is currently being finalized and will offer a dynamic mixed-use environment that interconnects the Passaic River with the arena and the PATH station. The approval process is expected to begin shortly.  

It should be noted that all the new development will occur within walking distance of new parks and open spaces. The planned waterfront gateway park will restore a valuable resource for Harrison that has been sorely lacking for generations – access to the Passaic River waterfront, one of the state’s most environmentally abused and underutilized waterways. Once complete, the walkway and park will remain in the public domain, offering a significant recreational amenity for the town. In addition to providing open space, the urban greenway project will restore sensitive stream bank areas and incorporate flood control measures to protect the town from flooding from the Passaic River. 

The vision outlined in the Harrison Waterfront Redevelopment Plan is becoming a reality. As Harrison redevelops as one of New Jersey’s premiere transit-friendly municipalities, it is providing its residents with a new economic base, thousands of new housing units, and a long-sought connection to the Passaic riverfront, and should serve as a model for other communities looking to redevelop around transit.

Somerville Landfill Redevelopment Stalled by Recession;
Downtown Somerville Awarded Improvement Loan

Redevelopment plans for the 160-acre former landfill site near Somerville Borough’s Raritan Valley Line station have been delayed, a victim of today’s economic uncertainty, despite ongoing station rehabilitation work by NJ TRANSIT and other planned improvements to the borough’s downtown.

Plans for the landfill followed a two-year public process to establish a vision for the property’s reuse and its integration into the downtown. In late 2007, the borough adopted the Landfill Redevelopment Plan, calling for a mix of commercial and residential development and open space. In March 2008, Somerville issued an RFQ/P seeking development partners. That request yielded a single response by a partnership led by Pulte Homes. As a result, a second request for qualifications was issued and in September 2008 the borough received responses from four firms. In addition, Somerset County Business Partnership also proposed a limited development on the corner of the property for office use.

Somerville had expected to complete interviews and award the contract by March 2009. However, none of the interested firms chose to proceed, citing an inability to access capital and uncertainties regarding required infrastructure and site remediation. Facing inaction from private developers, Somerville plans to keep the project moving by improving roughly 45 acres of the former landfill site for open space and recreational areas through environmental remediation and infrastructure improvements. To this end, Somerville has applied to the NJ Department of Environmental Protection for designation of the former landfill as a Brownfield Development Area (BDA.) The hope is that these improvements and the station project will dispel some of the developers’ perceptions of uncertainty and allow Somerville to divide the redevelopment area into several smaller projects.

Meanwhile, the station improvement project reached a milestone in March when the NJ TRANSIT Board of Directors awarded a $15.3 million contract to Terminal Construction Co. of Wood-Ridge to complete planned upgrades to the station. One of the project’s objectives is to meet ADA requirements, as Somerville is the last of 35 key stations to receive accessibility upgrades. Upgrades include a pair of 710-foot long high-level platforms with canopies, two new elevator cabs, a climate-controlled waiting room on the inbound platform with a ticket office and restrooms, heated platform shelters, ramps, stairs and a head house for the pedestrian tunnel entrance. Existing facilities, such as the elevator shafts, the pedestrian tunnel, tunnel stairs and exterior stairs to South Bridge Street will be rehabilitated. Other additions include security cameras, two new Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) and LCD and LED signs. Work is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2010.

The borough is continuing its efforts to improve its pedestrian environment and connections to its rail station. Downtown Somerville, the borough’s Main Street organization, was named the only recipient of state funds through the Downtown Business Improvement Zone Loan Fund for FY09. The $600,000, zero interest loan will leverage an additional $1.2+ million and enable Downtown Somerville to improve the borough’s pedestrian gateways as well as four major shopping lots. This effort will increase lighting and facilitate pedestrian connections to the Somerville Station as well as improve parking management and circulation throughout the downtown.  

For more information about Somerville's efforts, see our January 2008 and July 2007 newsletters or Somerville's Redevelopment website.

Communities Advance Safe Streets to Transit Projects

The New Jersey Department of Transportation recently awarded its first Safe Streets to Transit (SSTT) grants to 15 communities, including Absecon City, Camden City, Clifton City, Edgewater Borough, Egg Harbor City, Elizabeth City, Florence Township, Hoboken City, Lyndhurst Township, New Brunswick City, New Providence Borough, Ocean City, Plainsboro Township, Voorhees Township, and Woodlynne Borough. The program is part of Governor Jon Corzine’s five-year, $74 million Pedestrian Safety Initiative. SSTT grants will total $5 million over a five-year period.

Allocated from the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, the SSTT grants will be used by counties and municipalities to install and upgrade sidewalks and pedestrian barriers, and improve lighting and drainage on roads near transit stations. Aside from the obvious benefit of increasing pedestrian safety, these projects are meant to encourage transit usage by making it easier to walk or bike to transit facilities. SSTT represents collaboration between the NJDOT, the Department of Law and Public Safety and the Motor Vehicle Commission.

Among the initial SSTT grants, New Brunswick received $147,000 to improve pedestrian safety near its train station by creating a designated “kiss-and-ride” drop-off area to accommodate passengers arriving by car. Camden will use $170,000 in SSTT funds to improve pedestrian access and safety along Market Street, improving accessibility to two of its stations—the City Hall Station on the PATCO High-Speedline and the Cooper Street/Rutgers RiverLINE Station. Hoboken will receive $80,000 to improve commuter and pedestrian safety near Hoboken Terminal by installing pedestrian railing along Hudson Place. Ocean City has been awarded $100,000 in support of Haven Avenue Bike Route Phase I. To encourage drivers to accommodate bicyclists, funds will be used to implement traffic calming measures such as reduced speed limit and additional stop signs along this “share the road” facility.

For more information about the SSTT program, see http://www.state.nj.us/transportation/business/localaid/safe.shtm

 
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