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States hopes sale of blighted Ft. Monmouth complex spurs residential development

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A blighted housing complex at Fort Monmouth was put up for sale today, with state officials hoping to entice new residential development at the 64-acre site.

The area, known as Howard Commons, is a section of the former base that includes 486 townhomes across 52 buildings, according to the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority. The agency today issued a request for offers to purchase the 60-year-old parcel, in the Eatontown property's section, seeking a developer who will raze the complex and build 275 new units with up to 15,000 square feet of commercial space.

Though a recent focus of FMERA has been to find temporary housing for Hurricane Sandy victims, Bruce Steadman, the agency's executive director, said Howard Commons had been on track to be advertised by the end of this year. He also noted the defunct structures were in no shape to be considered short-term lodging.

"We've had lots of different groups look at those buildings, and some of them haven't been used in 10 years," Steadman said. "They're boarded up — the Army left them without any safeguards or protections. … They're better torn down and replaced."

Plans for a separate site, a 110-unit complex that once housed officers' families, have been accelerated by Sandy's aftermath, Steadman said. FMERA hopes to issue a request for offers on the Oceanport complex by late next month, he said, adding that "they aren't in move-in condition, but they could be relatively easily moved into right after closing."

Steadman said interest in both properties has been strong. Interested developers have until Jan. 28 to submit proposals for Howard Commons.

Plan for residential and commercial reuse at the sites were laid out in the 2008 Fort Monmouth Reuse and Redevelopment Plan, aimed at mapping the future as the federal government prepared to close the installation last year. Since then, FMERA has moved to acquire the 1,100-acre property from the U.S. Army and sell or lease sections for various redevelopment plans.

Eatontown officials have raised alarm about having the new housing at Howard Commons be rental properties, as nearly half the borough's population is made up of renters. Steadman said "we hear that loud and clear," but said FMERA also "(has) an obligation to uphold the reuse plan without any significant changes and … to evaluate the proposals in a fair and competitive way."

The request for offers cannot stipulate "no rentals," he said, but it does indicate that Eatontown's preference is for-sale units.

"We've made that notice in there, so that if you're a buyer, you know that you're going to get the best opportunity to move a project through the borough of Eatontown if it's a for-sale project," he said. "So I think we've done what we can to support the mayor."

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Joshua Burd

Joshua Burd

Josh Burd covers real estate, economic development and sports and entertainment. Before joining NJBIZ in 2011, he spent four years as a metro reporter in Central Jersey. Email him at joshb@njbiz.com.

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