Hospital Group Seeks Fort Monmouth Site

June 21, 2018
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Once a secretive hub of military technological research and invention, Fort Monmouth’s largest building – the Myer Center – is being demolished with the property on track to become the newest facility in the RWJ Barnabas Health network. Image courtesy FMERA

By Laura D.C. Kolnoski |

TINTON FALLS – The RWJBarnabas Health organization, the largest health care system in New Jersey, is taking steps to purchase a 36.3-acre parcel at Pearl Harbor Avenue and Corregidor Road on Fort Monmouth – that includes the Myer Center – to build a healthcare campus.

RWJBH’s proposal includes an ambulatory care center, a medical office building, a Cancer Institute of New Jersey Cancer Center, a business office and space for future medical and health facilities, according to state Economic Development Authority President/CEO Timothy Lizura.

In February, RWJBH submitted an unsolicited offer to purchase the property for an amount “not to exceed $8 million,” said Lizura.

At a meeting Tuesday, June 12 on Fort Monmouth, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) approved the execution of an agreement to assign the purchase and sale agreement between the EDA, FMERA and RWJBH for the hexagonal Myer Center, formerly a research and development lab known for numerous innovations including the invention of night vision goggles. The Myer Center is set to be demolished, as per a process set in motion last fall.

The RWJBH hospital chain, created by the merger of Robert Wood Johnson Health System and Barnabus Health in 2016, includes Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch. The hospital has been serving residents for 125 years, said spokeswoman Carrie Cristello.

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“Several months ago, a robust ambulatory expansion plan was developed in order to better meet the needs of our patients who live in the western part of the county but still within close proximity to our existing facility,” Cristello said in an email. “Since then [Monmouth Medical Center] began evaluating real estate options. At this time, several parcels of land are being considered based on availability. Once plans are finalized and approved, further details will be provided.”

Since the U.S. Army closed Fort Monmouth in 2011, attempts by FMERA to sell the large building for private development proved fruitless. Prospective buyers “kicked the tires,” as one official put it, but the age of the Cold War-era, 673,000-square-foot structure, the difficulty and cost of retrofitting and modernizing it, and remediation of hazardous substances there made such an undertaking cost prohibitive. The Army retains responsibility for remediation of any Army-caused environmental contamination other than mold, asbestos, lead-based paint and commercially applied pesticides that may be present on the property, as is the case throughout the fort.

Prospective buyers, however, liked its location near the recently expanded and upgraded Garden State Parkway Exit 105. That work was undertaken to improve access to the 1,126-acre fort, supporting its ongoing redevelopment, as well as easing congestion in the area around Monmouth Mall where Routes 35 and 36 converge. Easy access provided by the exit was also a factor in RWJBH’s interest, officials said.

Unable to successfully market the Myer Center, the EDA and FMERA decided to facilitate development of the property by contracting with Tricon Enterprises, Inc. of Keyport in September 2017 for abatement and demolition of the structure and its Night Vision Lab.

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“RWJBH maintains a large presence throughout New Jersey and we are pleased RWJBH intends to choose Fort Monmouth as the location for its newest comprehensive care services campus,” said Bruce Steadman, FMERA executive director. The FMERA board is expected to consider the proposal later this summer, he said.

As the sale process proceeds through FMERA’s established phases, RWJBH will perform its own title and survey investigation and due diligence and obtain the necessary approvals as preconditions to closing. That could take up to 18 months as per the agreement. Closing documents will stipulate the minimum number of permanent jobs that will be created at the new site once it is completed and operating. Temporary construction jobs are expected to be significant, Lizura said.

An action item to approve moving the initial Myer Center/RWJBH agreement forward was on the agenda for FMERA’s June 20 monthly meeting and was expected to pass.

Laura D.C. Kolnoski reports on Fort Monmouth development in the Two River Times. Read more coverage here

This article was first published in the June 21-June 28, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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