Bad Site + Good Location = Win Win
By: Ron Derven, contributing editor, Development
Site remediation at Riverbend was completed in 2008. When fully built out, the mixed-use project will include 800,000 square feet of retail, two hotels, office space and residential units.
In a sputtering, job-lagging recovery, redevelopment of a brownfield site into a vibrant 24/7 environment can have an impact far beyond the borders of the municipality’s location. This is what New Jersey-based Advance Realty and the New Jersey town of Harrison are finding as that town’s Riverbend District, an obsolete 80-acre brownfield site that once housed an industrial and manufacturing facility, is transformed into a dynamic environment for living, working and recreation.
"As one of the only large-scale redevelopment projects to move forward during one of the worst real estate markets in history, the progress that is being made at the Riverbend District is a testament to the importance of government agencies prioritizing brownfield redevelopment. Advance has made considerable investments in helping New Jersey achieve its goals for enhanced economic development and the re-use of underutilized properties," said Kevin A. Tartaglione, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Advance Realty Development.
Kevin A. Tartaglione
Due Diligence and Environmental Assessment
Creating the foundation for a successful redevelopment project at the Riverbend District began in 2005. Pre-development activities included conducting due diligence to assess the extent of site contamination, as well as determining project feasibility, which entailed addressing the various financial, regulatory, construction and marketing issues that needed to be resolved.
Plagued by excessive contamination, the Riverbend site needed extensive remediation to be prepared for new development. Advance worked with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to ensure the creation of a safe development. After receiving regulatory approvals in 2006, Advance began demolishing the existing derelict buildings on the property. Site remediation was completed in 2008, with removal of 48,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil.
Securing Redevelopment Financing
In 2009, Advance secured a financial partner in the form of the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust (NJEIT). An independent state financing authority, NJEIT provided a loan that is supporting construction funding for the Riverbend District. NJEIT only provides loans to brownfield cleanups that produce water quality improvement, underscoring the extensive remediation work that was performed by Advance at the Riverbend District, and the overall importance of the project to the State of New Jersey. Since 1987, NJEIT has provided more than $4.3 billion in loans for drinking water, wastewater, stormwater and land acquisition projects.
"Although a challenging project, requiring the additional time, money and resources necessary to redevelop a large-scale brownfield property, the benefits that Riverbend presents, not only to Harrison, but also to the entire state of New Jersey, are both numerous and significant," Tartaglione declared. "Developed as a public/private partnership between Advance Realty and the Town of Harrison at a time when the need for economic growth has never been greater, the Riverbend District is creating new jobs, tax ratables and infrastructure improvements."
Centered around the recently opened Red Bull Arena soccer stadium, the Riverbend District, when complete, will include more than 800,000 square feet of retail space, including an anchor grocery and retailers; a 16-screen cinema and notable restaurants; a 175-room limited service 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 4,000-plus square feet for-sale and rental residential units. In short, everything that is needed for residents and businesses to enjoy a 24/7 live, work and play environment.
Laying the Groundwork
In 2009, Advance began horizontal infrastructure work at the property, including roadways and utilities, a process that was diligently undertaken in order to meet the deadline for the opening of the 25,000-seat Red Bull Arena. The arena debuted in March 2010 as home to the New York Red Bulls major league soccer team and a venue for other athletic and entertainment activities.
Phase I horizontal infrastructure work included the installation of more than 12,000 linear feet of sewer pipe; 52 manholes; 2,416 linear feet of box reinforced concrete pipe; 6.8 acres of bituminous pavement; 2.73 acres of concrete sidewalk; 5.43 acres of roadway pavement; 20.35 acres of soil for capping, as well as additional underground utility work.
With horizontal infrastructure at the site complete, Advance is now prepared to begin vertical construction, a phased process that will eventually transform the property into a vibrant mixed-use hub for commercial, retail, entertainment and housing.
Location Drives Appeal
The Riverbend District could serve as a model for future brownfields developments of this kind in New Jersey and elsewhere. That’s because it reiterates the original value proposition of many brownfield sites: their outstanding locations. In developing the Riverbend District, the old real estate adage — location, location, location — has never been truer, according to Advance.
"The Riverbend District is located just minutes from downtown Newark, one of New Jersey’s central hubs of business, and is designed as a transit village, with direct access to multiple modes of mass transit, including NJ Transit, Amtrak and an onsite PATH station that will benefit from a $180 million renovation program, allowing easy access to Newark Penn Station," noted Tartaglione. "The site is also only 15 minutes by train to Manhattan, is highly accessible by all major roadways in Northern New Jersey, and is just minutes from Newark Liberty International Airport via rail service or car."
As long as brownfield projects are prioritized and supported by appropriate and sustainable economic incentives and legislation, their successful redevelopment is feasible, according to Tartaglione. "In areas such as New Jersey, where developable land is scarce, and ‘clean’ sites are offered at a significant premium or unapproved for development due to local and/ or state restrictions, it has become even more critical that a streamlined regulatory process and incentives be in place to encourage Brownfield redevelopment.
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