By Laura D.C. Kolnoski |
FORT MONMOUTH – The former cinema/live performance theater along the high-profile Avenue of Memories (Route 537) in Eatontown is part of the latest group of properties on the former U.S. Army base about to be offered for sale.
Other parcels include the Commissary, Post Exchange, warehouse district, post office and parking areas.
The parcels were approved for sale at the Dec. 6 meeting of the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA). Due dates for bids will be announced soon.
The entertainment facility, built in 1968, consists of 18,883 square feet with a 995-seat auditorium, slated for “adaptive reuse as well as alternate uses consistent with or complementing planned uses in the area” according to FMERA documents. The authority reports “specific interest from prospective purchasers in acquiring and renovating the property for arts, entertainment and related uses.” The parcel includes the adjacent Dean Field, a 24-acre green space intended for recreation, outdoor seating, passive open space or parking. The entire site totals approximately 31 acres.
A revitalized theater would become part of what is evolving into a cultural and entertainment hub located adjacent to the proposed futuristic Freedom Pointe, a 500,000-square-foot retail/residential/business/entertainment/restaurant/hotel complex announced earlier this year. The fort’s former bowling center was recently purchased by a North Jersey bowling facility firm that will renovate and reopen it as such. A microbrewery and event space is currently being created nearby. On the other side of the Avenue of Memories – the main thoroughfare through the fort – Red Bank’s Kenneth Schwartz, owner of the borough’s Detour Gallery, has purchased and is renovating six former barracks into an artists’ and performance community. Just yards away, rows of former officers’ housing along the parade grounds are being refurbished for sale and rental, some of the first on-fort residences to be offered to the public.
When Fort Monmouth closed, some lamented the loss of the Commissary site, available to military personnel and veterans, built in the Oceanport section in 1998. Early interest failed to result in purchase or lease. Located at Murphy Drive and Razor Avenue, the site lacks frontage on a major thoroughfare. Now the site is envisioned as a future retail building that could serve the thousands of new residents and workers who are expected to soon populate the revitalized fort.
The Post Exchange (PX) complex includes four circa-1970 wood frame buildings totaling about 45,626 square feet, along with a 5,563-square-foot 1941 building formerly used by the Army Service Corps. The reuse plan slated the site for demolition and future use as low and medium-density housing with open space. However, there has been recent interest in the Commissary and PX for office/research and development space, active recreation and/or other commercial uses. While not consistent with the original reuse plan, FMERA officials said redevelopment nearby, including reuse of the Paterson Clinic by AcuteCare, and the relocation of Oceanport municipal operations, has reshaped the configuration of the district, “opening the door to more appropriate and potentially higher uses.” Officials said that site has also received “specific interest from prospective purchasers.”
The Warehouse District consists of three general-purpose administrative buildings constructed in 1943 and two circa-1954 warehouse buildings totaling 77,589 square feet. The over 7-acre district is bound by Razor Avenue, Murphy Drive and the future Monmouth County Emergency Adult Homeless Shelter (as reported in The Two River Times last week.) FMERA staff recommends offering the site for commercial, active recreation or office/R&D space rather than residential use.
The four-building post office area, bounded by Alexander, Todd, and Razor avenues is an approximately 6-acre parcel zoned for institutional use. Buildings there include the 7,641-square-foot former fort post office built in 1971, a 1970 Ticket & Tour building, a 1942 administration and classroom building and the 9,267-square-foot recreation equipment facility built in 1941. The reuse plan envisions demolition of all four structures. At one point, the site was eyed by the Oceanport School District for a new elementary school, officials said, but as the district is no longer considering that location, the property can be offered for alternate uses.
A site on 6 acres that previously provided off-street parking for the buildings adjoining it is being recommended to continue to be used as such, depending on the proposals received for the adjacent parcels. Scoring of those bids by FMERA staff will give additional consideration to parties proposing to purchase multiple parcels.
It is FMERA policy not to disclose parties interested in or bidding on fort parcels during the negotiation process. Past disclosures have negatively affected the negotiations and/or caused interested parties to revoke their offers. Among reasons cited are informing competition of what a commercial enterprise may be planning, as well as initiating escalation of bid prices.
Factors considered by FMERA staff evaluation committees include prices offered, potential job creation numbers, timelines and enhancement of the economic value and “highest use” of Fort Monmouth. When the properties become officially available, details will be listed on fortmonmouthnj.com.
This article was first published in the Dec. 14-21, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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