Grapevine: Getting off Point

October 22. 2012 3:00AM

By NJBIZ STAFF

(Rendering from O'Neill Properties Group)

The American Dream Meadowlands project seems to grab all of the headlines in New Jersey, but it's certainly not the only megamall and entertainment complex that has spent a long time on the drawing board.

The firm planning to build The Point at Sayreville, an 8 million-square-foot retail project along the Raritan River, has been conspicuously quiet for more than a year, a real estate insider noted. The last piece of news from O'Neill Properties Group, the Pennsylvania-based developer, came last June, when it announced a letter of intent with Bass Pro Shops for a 200,000-square- foot store to help anchor the site.

The source said O'Neill has been trying to drum up interest for project components like a big-box mall and residential space. The developer also has proposed building mi- nor league baseball and hockey facilities at the site, "but obviously, they're not talking about it, because there's nothing good to say about it," the source said.

"They've been talking to everyone who's everyone to try to get them interested in this project, and I can assure you this: if they had someone interested, you would have heard about it," the insider said. "It's sort of like (Barack) Obama saying to (Mitt) Romney, 'Are you afraid of giving detail because it would be too good for middle- class families?'

The source noted that O'Neill is in the thick of a massive environmental cleanup at what is the former National Lead paint manufacturing site. Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Ragonese said the redeveloper has "made significant progress at the site, and the remediation is really moving ahead pretty rapidly."

Ragonese said the 453-acre project is utilizing the state's new Licensed Site Remediation Professional program, which aims to speed environmental cleanups with private-sector consultants. A representative for O'Neill did not return a call for comment.

Mulling Michael's move

According to sources, St. Michael's might be the next hospital to change ownership hands. A health care expert said it is no secret that Catholic Health East is looking to get out of the Newark market. While Atlantic Health System has been the most active system in acquiring hospitals of late, the source said it would be an unlikely partner for St. Michael's, as the system focuses on suburban communities.

Dawn Costantini, a spokeswoman for St. Michael's, said the hospital had been "reaching out to other health care systems to explore partnerships and synergies that will foster stability and preserve our minis- try" for more than six months, and would not discuss the confidential negotiations.

"When we have a decision to announce about the future of St. Michael's Medical Center, we will advise all concerned," Costantini said. "In the mean- time, we continue to operate and execute our 2012 plans."

Send a tweet next time?

Did Cory Booker blow off Joe Taylor while Panasonic was looking for a site for its 48,500-square-foot technology complex? That's the scuttlebutt, according to a source, but Taylor and Newark deny it.

Panasonic chose Harrison for the tech site set to open next summer because Booker wasn't calling Taylor back, the source said.

"He was complaining, 'Cory's never around when I need him,' " said the source. Taylor has been known to say that he wants to do great things for Newark, and has followed through on that promise with a new headquarters in the Brick City.

Taylor issued the following statement: "Absolutely and categorically untrue. Mayor Booker has been and continues to be incredibly engaged and involved not only in our decision to move to Newark but in assuring that all of the processes to get there go smoothly. I am quite pleased with all the help and support Mayor Booker has provided and continues to provide to Panasonic."

Adam Zipkin replied for Booker: "It is patently untrue. The mayor and Joe Taylor have an open line of communication, including email, cell phone and texting, and the mayor is always quickly responsive to any outreach by Mr. Taylor."

The Harrison site isn't a complete curveball for Panasonic. It is barely a mile from the new headquarters site, and the electronics giant has deep ties to the nearby Red Bull Arena, in Harrison. In October, Panasonic renewed a multiyear sponsorship with Major League Soccer, and is the maker of scoreboard and video displays inside the stadium. But, at the end of the day, it is Harrison — not Newark — that will get the ratable.

Panasonic broke ground on the Harrison tech site earlier this month. Grapevine first reported in May that the company was close to inking the deal.

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Sharon Waters at sharonw@njbiz.com.


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