By Laura D.C. Kolnoski |
FORT MONMOUTH – With a simple, “OK, let’s do it,” Robert Lucky began his first meeting as interim chairman of the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) on Jan. 17. Former Chairman James V. Gorman of Colts Neck stepped down after seven years in the unpaid post effective Dec. 31, 2017.
Lucky, of Fair Haven, joined the fort’s redevelopment effort as chairman of FMERA’s predecessor planning authority 10 years ago, and has served as a voting public member since then, transitioning from one authority to the next. He previously served as FMERA vice chairman.
Internationally recognized as an engineer, technology expert, speaker and author, the retired former Bell Labs inventor is the recipient of multiple awards and honors, including the Marconi Prize and the IEEE Edison Medal. He holds a doctorate in electrical engineering. His wife, the late Joan Lucky, was a longtime columnist for The Two River Times.
Lucky presided over a flurry of business during the first FMERA meeting of 2018.
Albert J. Myer Center Demolition
Deemed too outdated and environmentally problematic to reuse, the 673,000-square-foot complex that once served as a hub of technological research and development on Fort Monmouth will be demolished. After potential developers kicked the tires and passed on the Cold War-era hexagonal structure – one of the fort’s largest – FMERA officials worked toward its demolition. While no bids were made on the buildings, FMERA staff received inquiries about the site due to its location next to the Garden State Parkway.
“The 70-year-old building was built for specific purposes, making it infeasible for reuse opportunities,” said Bruce Steadman, FMERA executive director. The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA), which oversees FMERA, granted approval to demolish the Myer Center and adjacent 43,230-square-foot Night Vision Lab last year. Including parking areas and ancillary structures, the site covers over 38 acres at the intersection of Corregidor and Pearl Harbor roads in Tinton Falls.
The EDA retained T&M Associates of Middletown as the project engineer. The demolition contractor is Tricon Enterprises Inc. of Keyport. The scope of work includes asbestos and lead-based paint abatement, demolition and site restoration. The abatement aspect commences this month. Completion of the demolition and site restoration process is projected for February 2019. Fencing and warning signs will be installed by Tricon around the site’s perimeter for public safety.
Veteran’s Outreach Office
With a lease signing imminent, Monmouth County officials are readying plans to convert unused space in the fort’s Russel Hall to a new county-run veteran’s assistance office. Late last year, FMERA officials, working with Tetherview, the new owners of Russel Hall, identified the space in the brick building on the fort’s parade grounds near the Oceanport Avenue entrance at the request of Monmouth County Freeholder Lillian Burry. A longtime voting FMERA member representing the county, Burry chairs its Veteran’s Subcommittee.
“We are anxious to get started,” said Burry, adding that existing county personnel and one new hire will staff the office. “It’s a good location because it’s a signature building on the fort and easily accessible.” The office will operate similarly to the County Connection in Neptune City, an outpost of the Freehold-based County Clerk’s office, but “dedicated strictly to veterans,” Burry said. A wide range of services, assistance and referrals will be offered.
Suneagles Golf Course
New owners Martelli Development, LLC, of Colts Neck has taken over the fort’s 18-hole Suneagles Golf Course from Linx Management. Although the fort closed in 2011, the historic golf course with its Gibbs Hall banquet facility and sports bar located in Eatontown, has remained operational and open to the public. Renowned architect A.W. Tillinghast designed Suneagles, which opened in 1926. The U.S. Army purchased the course in 1942 and added it to Fort Monmouth property.
Martelli paid $5 million for the 171-acre property off Tinton Avenue. Plans include renovating Gibbs Hall, making capital upgrades to the golf course and demolishing the vacant 42-unit Megill military housing units there to make way for 75 new residential units aimed at adults. The course is expected to remain open during the redevelopment. Total course redevelopment costs have been projected at about $30 million.
“Martelli is bringing in money and making significant changes to the course, bringing back the Tillinghast roots,” Steadman said. Martelli has prior golf course experience, including developing the Colts Neck Golf and Country Club on Flock Road.
Next on the Block
Six new Requests for Offers to Purchase (RFOTPs) will be issued during the first half of 2018, according to Dave Nuse, FMERA director of real estate development. Among them are the fort’s former Commissary, the Warehouse District and the Post Office. He said two-thirds of fort parcels have already been sold, are under contract or in negotiation. Information on specific parcels is available on fortmonmouthnj.com.
“Tremendous progress has been made,” Lucky said as he closed his first meeting as interim chairman.
This article was first published in the Jan. 25-Feb. 1, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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