Exciting Progress At Fort Monmouth

By Lillian G. Burry, Monmouth County Freeholder Director

 

Monmouth County Freeholder Director Lillian G. Burry

Monmouth County Freeholder Director Lillian G. Burry

Amidst a summer awash in bad news, there is a very good news story I’m pleased to share regarding the redevelopment of Fort Monmouth; a topic I am asked about frequently. Since the fort was closed by the U.S. Army in 2005, I have been a member of both public-private agencies, led by the state, that first planned, and is now executing plans to transform the fort into a hub of recreation, commerce, technology, innovation, education, residential and retail use. Tangible results emerged last year and continue to increase this year. More are on the near horizon, bringing jobs, ratables and opportunities for the public to enjoy new open spaces and recreational options within the borders of Eatontown, Oceanport and Tinton Falls.

As the county’s representative, first on the Fort Monmouth Economic Redevelopment Planning Authority (FMERPA) and currently on the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA), I identified certain facilities and spaces for county use early on. Last year, the Monmouth County Department of Public Works and Engineering took over, refurbished and is now utilizing the fort’s former motor pool, bringing critical services including snow and storm damage removal closer to that region. The county Park System now runs the former teen center and pool, a beautiful facility. Programs initiated there last year have been well-attended and growing. This year, we opened the pool for classes. The reception and attendance have been outstanding. We hope to increase programs at the pool next summer. That’s just the beginning…

 

· The fort’s marina has been leased by a private firm and opened for boating. A year ‘round public restaurant there is being refurbished after Superstorm Sandy damage.

· The Sun Eagles Golf Course is operating while being upgraded and better maintained.

· A new, state-of-the-art headquarters for the CommVault data firm is nearing completion, bringing thousands of jobs.

· AcuteCare is renovating the former Patterson Clinic into a healthcare facility.

· Tinton Falls will convert the former Child Development Center into a school.

· Princeton University wants to create a driverless car testing facility on the fort.

Other firms are negotiating contracts or in talks for facilities including Russell Hall, the fabrication units, the chapel, the firing range, officers housing and more. We are working diligently to create a full-service veteran’s community on fort property and are committed to that goal. About 850 acres of the 1,128-acre fort have not yet been placed under contract.

As the U.S. Army still technically the fort, all transactions must follow stringent, lengthy procedures and regulations subject to Army approval. Signing of final transfer papers between the Army and New Jersey is expected later this year. To hasten and streamline the redevelopment of Fort Monmouth, I recently proposed Monmouth County purchase the remaining fort property through the Monmouth County Improvement Authority (MCIA). Representatives from the state Economic Development Authority (EDA), FMERA, the county and the MCIA are actively pursuing the idea. Time is of the essence regarding prospective future fort tenants. A county-state purchase of the property would eliminate time-consuming bureaucratic obstacles to redevelopment and see the fort occupied and bustling with jobs and activity once again. To keep abreast of FMERA progress and activities, visit fortmonmouthredevelopment.com.

 

Posted: August 22nd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Fort Monmouth, Lillian Burry, Monmouth County, Monmouth County Board of Freeholders | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

5 Comments on “Exciting Progress At Fort Monmouth”

  1. Bill said at 12:01 pm on August 22nd, 2014:

    FMERA has been able to get things done with a bipartisan approach keep up the good work.

  2. frank wells said at 3:39 pm on August 22nd, 2014:

    We in monmouth county are fortunate to have freeholder Burry at the helm of this operation. If you want to see how the fort will look a few years down the road, take a trip to the former camp kilmer sight. It is bustling with activity, and many, many jobs.

  3. Bob English said at 8:22 pm on August 22nd, 2014:

    While there are a few good things happening on the former Fort Monmouth property, an honest discussion of current progress also needs to note the shortfalls of redevelopment efforts since the reuse plan for the Fort was approved in 2008. If one is to judge the success of Fort Monmouth based on the goals FMERA placed on itself, creating 6000 jobs that were lost due to the base closure as well as new tax rateables for the three host towns, it is difficult to conclude that the progress made after more than its six year effort is anything less than a major disappointment. I say this not to discredit FMERA or any of our elected officials including Freeholder Burry who have participated in the redevelopment efforts but rather have those individuals face the realities of what has and has not happened so that solutions can be formulated, implemented and a successful outcome that can’t be argued materialize.

    With all due respect, the CommVault project would be viewed by economic development professionals as a job retention project in that the company has moved from one neighboring host town (Oceanport) to another (Tinton Falls.) With the aid of a several million dollar business incentive program from the State of New Jersey, CommVault is required to add 250 new jobs in the next several years or face penalties. It is estimated (but not guaranteed) that a total of up to 1,500 new jobs could be added over the next 20 years after their total build out/expansion is completed.

    Several of the other development projects that have taken place are for the most part public improvements ie community pool,…school,…public works that while needed do not create jobs or tax ratables. All of the structures that are designated to be demolished in excess of a million square feet remain.

    As a resident of Eatontown which is one of the three host towns (the others being Tinton Falls and Oceanport) it’s hard for me to see any progress in my community when aside from the continued operation of the golf course (on a year to year lease) there are no other positive accomplishments that would add new jobs or tax retables based in Eatontown. No sales of property, no new businesses, no new jobs, nothing under contract and as of today, no current RFOTP’s issued (although I do expect that 2-3 that were previously cancelled to be re-issued in the next few months…..hopefully with better results.) Hov-West/Hovnanian which had been in negotiations on the Howard Commons parcel (to build 277 residential units) with FMERA for over a year (RFOTP issued in December of 2012) abruptly withdrew its offer two weeks ago after demanding a major price reduction along with a much longer period to close on the property.

    Of special concern to Eatontown residents is also the fact that the dilapidated housing on the current Howard Commons property was abandoned by the Army years ago and still awaits demolition. The property boarders on directly on Eatontown residential apartment complexes and a sidewalk and walkway were children walk to school. Despite pleas from the Mayor , Council and other residents including myself directly to the FMERA board, nothing is done to maintain the property and cut the grass/weeds around the old housing which appear to not have been cut in several years. It’s disgraceful that Eatontown/Monmouth County residents have to live next door to that rathole. That is especially frustrating since the rest of the Fort Monmouth property appears to be relatively well maintained.

    Part of the problems faced in current redevelopment efforts date back to the original reuse plan approved in 2008 which even back then was a pipe-dream. In Eatontown the reuse plan included a hotel/conference center along with 450k square feet of commercial office/incubator space which were never going to happen in a County that now boasts a commercial vacancy rate of 40%. The idea of a 2nd “downtown” including 302 of possibly rental apartment units was ridiculous in a community were 50% of its dwelling units were already rentals (compared with a County average of roughly 25%.)
    Hopefully going forward, other types of commercial development will be considered rather than any suggestion of trying to circumvent the reuse plan housing number of 577 total.

  4. Middletowner said at 8:35 am on August 23rd, 2014:

    Economic development happens by supply and demand, not by Government decree.

    No matter how many commissions and studies are created, jobs, shops and houses will come to Ft Monmouth when the market needs it.

    The only thing Govt can do is to raze everything and keep it in decent shape so when the need arises, the property looks attractive to investors.

  5. Jay Coffey said at 9:22 am on August 23rd, 2014:

    The response by Bob English should be read aloud before, during and after every FMERA meeting and every Oceanport, Tinton Falls and Eatontown municipal council meeting. It should also appear in the Asbury Park Press, Star Ledger, New York Times and Wall Street Journal every time Lillian Burry or any other FMERA representative issues a self-serving progress pronouncement. And Middletowner’s pithy response is also spot on. One day there will be a competitive market for the development of the fort property. Unfortunately, this isn’t the day.