Category Archives: New Jersey

Murphy Signs Bill To Ensure Clean Water and Environmental Infrastructure Project Funding

This week, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy signed a bill to ensure the state’s environmental infrastructure projects will be approved and continue through the new fiscal year. The bipartisan bill (S-2499) appropriates $1.167 billion in state and federal funds for clean water and environmental projects.

The measure appropriates money to the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) New Jersey Infrastructure Bank Financing Program. It will be used to help “local government units, municipal, county and regional authorities, and small water companies with loans at or below the prevailing rates for qualifying clean water projects.”

State senator Kip Bateman, who co-sponsored the bill, said this will make sure that essential projects such as renovations an updates to water treatment facilities and wastewater controls damaged in 2012 by Superstorm Sandy will continue without putting more of the financial burden on property taxpayers.

The bill also authorizes the DEP to make clean water project loans to four municipalities in the Pinelands area that are receiving funding under the “Pinelands Infrastructure Trust Fund.” Disaster Relief Emergency Financing Program loans will still be available for short-term financing for projects to repair or improve the resiliency of environmental infrastructure systems adversely impacted by Storm Sandy, according to the bill.

Jersey City Moves Forward, Opens Bidding for Loew’s Jersey Theatre Renovations

While the pandemic has hit the arts and entertainment business and venues hard, last week there was a little hope for the future—and movement in the redevelopment of Journal Square in Jersey City―as the bidding process opened for the redevelopment of the historic Loew’s Jersey Theatre.

The building, which dates back to the 1920s, will require extensive renovations, restoration and possible expansion while also restoring the historic character and aesthetic appeal, while creating all of the modern needs such as added restroom capacity, as well as up-to-date concession and ticketing areas.

Construction of the $40 million project will need to create a facility that allows for maximum operating capacity and maximum safety of patrons. Upgrades are needed for the plumbing, production equipment, and electrical systems, as well as install new air conditioning, fire and security systems. Roof and exterior façade work will also be needed.

An effort will be made to clean and restore historic fixtures and add architectural lighting that complements the original. Historic production and mechanical equipment will be preserved in place or relocated within the building.

Proposals are are due in early August, and the city hopes to re-open the theater in 2022.

 

HVAC Companies Likely To Be in Higher Demand with COVID-19 Requirements, Reopenings

As the tri-state area begins reopening businesses and camp facilities, HVAC companies are likely to be in high demand.
Youth camps in New Jersey, which can open on July 6, must meet specific HVAC requirements to get approval from the state to reopen their indoor facilities.
According to the NJ Department of Health summer camp standards document, “Camps must ensure that their indoor facilities have adequate ventilation, including operational heating, ventilation and air conditioning (“HVAC”) systems where appropriate. i. Recirculated air must have a fresh air component ii. Open windows if A/C is not provided iii. Filter(s) for A/C units must be maintained and changed according to manufacturer recommendations.”
And it won’t just be camp facilities keeping HVAC companies busy as states transition to the reopening phases for businesses and, eventually, schools.
American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ (ASHRAE) Epidemic Task Force member M. Dennis Knight recommends buildings where HVAC systems haven’t been running–or have been running minimally–since pandemic closures should replicate the process of new construction with regards to inspection, start up, and testing a system. He also suggested building owners recommission or retrocommission their systems. COVID-19 is not the only concern for restarting systems that have been down. There are always concerns for the integrity of a system after it hasn’t been running consistently or had proper maintenance, Knight said.
ASHRAE has put out building safe readiness and reopening guidance, as well as offering information on filtration and disinfection.

Jersey Walk Construction To Provide Housing, Retail Space in Elizabeth

The first phase of construction is underway for Jersey Walk, the mixed-use development at the site of the former Elizabeth General Hospital on E. Jersey St. in Elizabeth. The hospital closed more than a decade ago and the 5.5 acre site has sat unused. Now, a $125 million project is going up to try to revitalize the area and provide housing and retail space.

The first phase includes the construction of two six-story buildings. The approximately 218,000 square-feet will have 274 studio, one-bedroom, and two-room units, as well as 3,000 square feet of retail space on the ground level. The parking garage on the site, which can have nearly 550 spaces, will also be renovated.

Phase I is expected to be completed in Spring 2021.

Phase II will consist of the construction of two more six-story buildings with a total of 240 additional residential units.

Plans for the redevolpment of the site have been in the works for years. The property was sold to CMT Developers LLC in 2015. This March, the company received the funding it needed for the site, which is within walking distance of the Elizabeth Train Station and Elizabeth Avenue business district.

Marina Project Plans to Revitalize Pleasantville Waterfront

The marina in Pleasantville, NJ, hasn’t been a destination spot in recent years. But the $30 million Lakes Bay Marina project hopes to change all of that—and soon.

If developers get approval on their plans, they could finish dredging the marina this summer so that customers could house a boat in one of the 50 slips that will be available.

But the slips are just part of the bigger plan to revitalize the area on the 25-acre site. The project calls for the construction of 180 one- and two-bedroom apartments, a clubhouse, and pool. There will be a public space near the water, which could display artwork and host events like street fairs and festivals. If this project is completed and attracts interest as hoped, there is the possibility it would launch more development nearby, including residential housing, commercial retail and restaurants.

The planning board received the final plans and is reviewing them for completeness. No public meeting has been scheduled yet.

RWJBarnabas Health & Rutgers Cancer Pavilion Faces Legal, Local Obstacles

It would be the first free-standing cancer facility in New Jersey. The $750 million RWJBarnabas Health & Rutgers Cancer Pavilion in New Brunswick is set to be 510,000 square feet with 12 stories. It will house an inpatient hospital with surgical suites, an outpatient center, an urgent care, and research labs. The joint project of Rutgers Cancer Institute and New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO) is projected to create 1,500 jobs. It is a joint project from RWJBarnabas Health. If all goes as planned.

While the healthcare world and cancer patients might eagerly await the dedicated facility many people the community oppose the project. The 1.6-acre site is currently the home of the Lincoln Annex Middle School, which has about 750 students. Part of the construction plan allocated $55 million to build a new three-story, 135,000 square-foot middle school. It would be a mile away and take three years to complete. In the meantime, students would be sent to a converted warehouse. Parents object not only to the interim setting but that the warehouse is outside of the neighborhood.

Governor Phil Murphy was asked about the project at his daily coronavirus press conference on Friday. Asked his opinion on the situation and if he would guarantee a new school would be built before the project started, Murphy touted New Jersey’s public education system before saying the proposed cancer center “is going to be a game-changer for a lot of things, including jobs and education. Beyond that, I’ve got not comment on that.”

State health commissioner Judith Persichilli, who received her nursing degree at Rutgers, was also asked about the situation and did not comment beyond saying that she had a lot of fond memories of her alma mater but “the bricks and mortar are not them.”

Demolition of the current school is targeted to begin in October with a projected completion of the cancer center in Fall of 2023.

But this week, in an effort to derail the plans, a lawsuit was filed by LatinoJustice on behalf of the school’s parents and students. It says the deed for the property requires that any construction on the land be a public school or administration building. Rutgers is part of the project, and a public university, but LatinoJustice lawyers do not believe that qualifies the cancer center as a “public school.”

The New Brunswick Board of Education approved plans for the proposed new school building and location in April, but opponents say it was done during the novel coronavirus pandemic and the public was left out of the process, unable to voice their opinion. A second legal action has actually been taken by the editor of New Brunswick Today against the Board of Education for violations of the Open Public Meetings Act. In January, the 4000-member local teachers union passed a unanimous resolution opposing the plan.

Some opponents might support the project if the new school is built first, however, that would obviously delay construction of the cancer center by years. For now, developers continue to target this fall to begin but for the project to continue at this site, the legal issues must be resolved.

Non-Essential Construction Can Begin Again Monday, May 18

Today, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that non-essential construction can resume at 6 a.m. on Monday, May 18.

Construction sites can resume work with the following safeguards in place:

  • Clear posting of safety protocols
  • Preventing overcrowding
  • Prohibiting non-essential visitors
  • Staggering work hours and breaks
  • Ensuring proper sanitation

Murphy reiterated what he has said all along that the data will drive the re-opening process for the state. The state is “not out of the woods yet,” he said, sharing a chart that showed New Jersey is the most impacted state in the country right now. Social distancing and face-covering must continue. If the numbers of illness and hospitalizations go up, he will step back and restart the stay-at-home orders and once again shut down non-essential businesses.

New York and New Jersey Stay-at-Home Orders, School and Business Closures Extended to May 15

In their daily coronavirus press conferences on Thursday, New York governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey governor Phil Murphy extended their stay-at-home orders in each state until May 15. Murphy made the announcement, specifically discussing the closure of NJ’s public schools, but said he remains hopeful that with public health guidelines in place longer he can make a “different” announcement in a month.

Murphy mentioned construction when asked about the Turnpike Authority’s planned April 28 meeting, which would address possible toll hikes, and if he is allowing that meeting to go forward as planned. He said it could, but only if it was done in a virtual setting and allowed a longer period for public comment. Figuring out the budget is the key to continuing vital infrastructure projects.

“Transportation money needs to be the main source of transportation projects,” he said and noted that the state must continue to provide

“Construction as a general matter for rest areas [and] big highway projects, that’s going on because NJ goes on,” he said.

Cuomo discussed the strategy for reopening New York, which will actually be the strategy used by seven Northeast states–NY, NJ, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island–in an alliance of I-95 corridor states created this week. (The plan will be created by a group consisting of a head public health official, a chief economic development officer, and the governor’s chief of staff from each state.)

Cuomo tweeted the guidelines for the plan, reiterating what he has said in the past–this will not be a reset to the way things were before the shutdown, but the beginning of a new way of doing business until a viable treatment or widespread public vaccine is established.

“Employers will need to develop new practices around workplace social distancing rules, transportation, customer interactions, and more,” he tweeted. “We need proactive protocols in the event of an infection at a workplace.”

The return to business will be phased in on a “priority scale,” he said.

“Business will reopen based on the risk posed,”  he tweeted. “We will work on a regional basis.”

Construction Industry Assists in Health Crisis as Makeshift Hospitals Pop-Up in NY and NJ

While most of the Northeast is on hold, the construction industry continues to provide its essential work in New York and New Jersey. Not only have transportation, utility, housing, and emergency projects continued, contractors and developers have stepped up to assist FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers with some of the many temporary hospital facilities popping up in New York and New Jersey—the two states hardest hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic at this time.

Here are some of the fast-moving projects answering the call of the health care crisis by transforming convention and expo centers, college campuses and even a racetrack into makeshift medical facilities.

At the Meadowlands Convention Center, a general hospital has opened to care for those who require unrelated care and less severe COVID patients. The pop-up field hospitals at the Edison Convention Center and Atlantic City Convention Center are in progress. The Atlantic City site is scheduled to open on April 14.

Meanwhile in New York, construction is underway to convert the Westchester County Center’s main arena, several smaller main-level rooms and a second-floor theater into a hospital. At SUNY Stonybrook and SUNY Old Westbury sites, 250-bed treatment tents are scheduled to be completed on April 19. And three 1,000-bed units are set to begin construction at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, New York Expo Center in the Bronx and CUNY College Staten Island.

Hopefully, these sites will be enough to handle the influx of patients and, before too long, they can be returned to their intended purpose.

Medical Marijuana Sparks Facilities Construction

Construction of medical marijuana facilities and distribution centers has become a consistent piece of industry business in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  And as legalizing recreational marijuana is discussed in state legislatures throughout the country, there is growing possibility that more of these facilities will be needed.

Right now there are four projects either in planning or under construction in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In October, a project was completed in Chester, PA.

There are specific considerations when building such a facility, according to the Cannabis Business Times, including designing for the proper air flow and humidity and availability of power and water. And of course, as with any construction, location is key.

In Green Township, NJ, discussions are underway about what to do with the Trinca Airport Redevelopment site. A medical marijuana facility is a possibility, although critics say it would violate the Drug Free School Zone laws. A solar farm is also an option there.

Meanwhile, a spring 2020 target date has been set for a 70,000-square-foot Agronomed Medical Marijuana Growing & Processing Facility on a nearly nine acre site in Chester, PA; the Harmony Foundation Medical Marijuana Facility at the Merck Site in Lafayette, NJ, has a target date in the third quarter of this year; and applications for a final site plan have been approved for a project in Rochelle Park, NJ.

The Harmony job consists of two-story, 282,000-square-foot facility with one existing building on the site renovated for administration, research and development space. Two lanes of roadway will also be added in an attempt to reduce any added traffic.

In Rochelle Park, the plan calls for a medical marijuana facility of more than 7,000 square feet in a space currently occupied by an antique store. In addition, there would be construction of a six-story self-storage facility with more than 120,000 square feet at the site of an existing retail center.