Harrison, NJ – At a time when many developers are postponing progress at their developments, Bedminster-based Advance Realty is moving ahead with construction at the Riverbend District, one of the largest brownfields mixed-use, redevelopment transit districts underway in New Jersey.
Phase I infrastructure work at the Riverbend District is already more than 50% complete. Construction and Engineering firm Carson & Roberts is responsible for all site horizontal infrastructure work at the project and is on track to complete the installation of underground utilities, sidewalks, roadways, streetlights and traffic signals in time for the opening of Red Bull Arena in spring 2010.
“Carson & Roberts will take the Riverbend District one step closer to completion with horizontal infrastructure work that supports the transformation of this previously derelict site into a vital mixed-use, urban district,” Advance Realty’s senior vice president and COO Kevin Tartaglione tells GlobeSt.com.
Phase I of the vertical construction at the Riverbend District is scheduled to begin in 2010 and will feature more than 800,000 square feet of retail space, including an anchor grocery store and retailers, a 16 screen cinema and restaurants; a 175-room hotel and a 350-room, full service hotel with 25,000 square feet of conference space; a wellness center; corporate and boutique office space; and approximately 1,900 for-sale and rental residential units.
“The redevelopment of this significant property into a vibrant, mixed-use destination is of critical importance to the town of Harrison in meeting its goals of enhanced economic development and improved quality of life for all residents,” Harrison Mayor Raymond McDonough said in a statement.
According to Tartaglione, Advance is working closely with Harrison on the 80-acre site. “One of the burdens developers face is that older cities usually carried most of the infrastructure such as power and telephone lines above grade, but nearly all redevelopment projects require the power and telephone connectivity below grade,” says Tartaglione. Unfortunately, he adds, developers are being asked to cover the costs of moving infrastructure underground despite the fact it will ultimately benefit the utility company. Tartaglione would like to see the state place more of this cost burden on the utility.
For the Harrison project, the cost of moving poles below grade is between $3 and $5 million, with overall infrastructure in the $30 million range. “We have some private and public funding,” Tartaglione relates, the latter of which will go toward the Red Bull Stadium, which is located adjacent to the Riverbend site. As a transit-oriented community, the Riverbend District is near New Jersey Transit, Amtrak and an onsite PATH station that should stand to benefit from a $180-million renovation program to improve service.
In Morristown, meanwhile, utilities in the street date back 150 years in some cases, says Stephen Santola, executive vice president and general counsel at Woodmont Properties, which is working on the redevelopment of the former Epstein’s Department Store here, as well as the 36-condominium residences at Vail Mansion and the recently completed Highlands at Morristown Station. In the case of the former project, he says, “When we set out to improve the water utility, the idea was not to just get enough water to our building, but to create enough capacity in the system to help promote redevelopment in other areas of the downtown off of the water main system.” All told, Woodmont did almost $3 million in offsite improvements at the Epstein’s rehabilitation site, including significant storm water improvements and installations, water mains and sanitary sewer improvements.
Another common concern when it comes to aging infrastructure is the water pipes. “Pipes that weren’t treated and lined will begin to build up an interior from the calcium and the water and rust,” Parsippany-based Santola explains. The result: a four-inch water line can reduce in diameter to as little as three inches. “Now you’re getting even less capacity through that line than was originally planned. In some of our projects we run a camera into the sewer line to determine capacity,” he adds.
Clearly, these costs can add up quickly, a fact that is off-putting to many developers. “The development community has pitched in quite a bit already,” affirms Tom Michnewicz, vice president of development at Somerset Development in Lakewood, which is currently working on the Westmont Station in Wood-Ridge, a 70-acre brownfields redevelopment that will include a New Jersey Transit station. “The infrastructure requirements, especially on larger projects, are really a heavy lift. We try to encourage the local municipality as well as the counties and the state to pitch in.” Government entities, he adds, have the ability to float bonds, and there are many creative ways of funding infrastructure through tax increment financing or fund bond issues.