By Alexandra Yearly
Bordentown Township is ready to make a waterfront transit village a reality.
The township has approved plans for the construction of the Bordentown Waterfront Transit Village to begin in April. The 90-acre site, which has been vacant for more than 20 years, has the township’s blessing to be transformed into a place where its residents will have access to the river.
The plan calls for market-rate apartments, affordable senior housing, commercial shops, a fishing pier and walkway, parks and the construction of a River Line station.
It’s the first time in nearly 100 years that the property, the only section ofBordentown Township that touches the Delaware River, will be accessible to the public. Before that, public use was prevented because of industrial needs.
The location had been operated by the North American Marine Salvage Company up until the early 1980s, when the ship salvage yard closed down. In 2002-2003, the township considered allowing a power plant to be constructed in the abandoned space, but after numerous complaints and protests from residents, the township did not follow through with the project.
In 2005, Jeffrey Albert approached the township with a new proposition.
Albert, of Princewood Properties in Princeton, first took notice of the area in 2005. Now, he is working with the newly created developer Bordentown Waterfront Community to undertake the construction of the Bordentown Waterfront Transit Village.
“[I] saw that it had an enormous opportunity,” Albert said. “It was one of the few very large sites that could be developed and create a new place, a real place, not just a real estate development, but a real community.
Albert said the site combined several attributes that made it ripe to be transformed into something the township and region could use.
The first thing the township did was make the property a redevelopment zone.
The entire project is expected to cost about $300-400 million and stretch over at least a five-year period. Funding will be obtained primarily through private capital, third party construction loans and township funding of public infrastructure, Albert said.
A few buildings and rubble are the salvage yard’s only remnants. Since it is a brownfield, the site does have some soil contamination from the ship salvage operations, Albert said.
As of Feb. 20, a soil remediation plan was approved with the state, Albert said.
The first phase, expected to cost $60–70 million, will consist of the construction of 159 market-rate apartments, 62 units of affordable senior housing built by Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey and 22,000 square feet of commercial outlets. Also included in the first phase plan is the realignment of Burlington-Bordentown Road, and changes and improvements to the infrastructure.
Phase one’s projected time frame is between 18 months and two years.
When construction officially begins, the first thing the developers will tackle is the realignment of Burlington-Bordentown Road and its connection to Route 130, a project Albert estimates will take about 4-5 months to complete.
“Right now, Burlington-Bordentown Road comes to Route 130 at an acute and very dangerous intersection,” Albert said. “The acute angle there does not provide for good visual access to that intersection, and all the turning movements … are tortured and very difficult and dangerous.”
The realignment will create a right angle T-intersection at Burlington-Bordentown Road.
The second phase will begin with the construction of a public waterfront area on the other side of the light rail tracks, and consists of a fishing pier, walkway park and additional commercial and apartment buildings and infrastructure improvements.
One aspect of the project, however, is not scheduled for a specific phase. The construction of the new River Line station, approved by NJ Transit, will begin as soon as funds are secured, Albert said.
The new stop will feature a center-island platform light rail station, including a relocated grade crossing to replace the existing grade crossing, a new commuter parking lot and improvements on the River Line, according to NJ Transit spokesman John Durso.
NJ Transit approved the design and construction of the station, but will not supply any funding.
A second Bordentown station won’t be the only one under construction, either. Work is already underway on a Pennsauken transit center, which will link the River Line to the Atlantic City rail line.
Albert estimated the ambitious project will consist of about five phases, but said that’s subject to change depending on how the project progresses. Some of the phases may be broken down into separate projects, and others may be consolidated, he said.
“It all depends when they start the additional phases,” said Bordentown Township deputy mayor Michael Dauber. “One of the agreements we have is they can’t start additional phases if the first [phases] aren’t successful. That’s one of the guidelines, or restrictions, we have set up.”
The township expects to receive $9.1 million in revenue just from phase one, and a total projected amount of about $80–90 million received over a period of 30 years if the project comes to fruition.
The township has established a PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes, agreement with Bordentown Waterfront Community. Bordentown Township will invest up to $12.5 million in bonds to pay for infrastructure and public improvements for phase one and two. The developer would start paying back those bonds 21–24 months after the bond is issued.
The revenue will allow the township to pay for other infrastructure and public improvements—like fixing curbs, sidewalks and streets, and putting money into parks—around town without using taxpayers’ dollars.
“Back when the market was good, there was lots of money to do these things,” Dauber said. “But market conditions turned.”
The schools are still guaranteed to receive 100 percent of the tax levy. As the value of the property increases, it creates a bigger pool from which to draw taxes, which helps lower rates for everyone else, Dauber said.
After the completion of phase one, the school tax levy would drop one penny per $100 of assessed value, and upon total buildout, would drop 4 cents per $100 across each sending district, Dauber said.
Dauber also said the water and sewer usage increase as the development continues will help pick up the loss of revenue when Ocean Spray leaves Bordentown.
Albert said as long as the remaining approvals are secured, construction would start in April. Bordentown Township has already submitted all the necessary approvals.