The effort to transform Fort Monmouth following the military base's closure two years ago took its first major step forward on Tuesday afternoon, when Oceanport-based data management software company CommVault Systems Inc. signed final paperwork to construct new headquarters on a 55-acre tract in Tinton Falls after months of negotiations and government review of its commercial development plan.
While CommVault anticipates construction of its headquarters will require three project phases over 20 years, the company said it expects in the next several weeks to start initial site work on the first phase, which includes an approximately 275,000-square-foot, $70 million building.
With the completed sale of the property, Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority Chairman James V. Gorman said in a statement the authority "achieved three key goals: job retention and creation, reinvestment, and establishing an anchor that will undoubtedly enhance our ability to attract additional businesses and investors."
According to CommVault, the project will result in the retention of 500 employees who will relocate to redevelopment site's "Parcel E" in Tinton Falls from the company's Oceanport headquarters, as well as the creation of an estimated 1,500 jobs following the build-out of 650,000 square feet of high-tech office and research space.
That employment growth will be made possible in part by 10-year, $7.2 million Business Employment Incentive Program grant to create 250 jobs and a two-year, $1.35 million Business Retention and Relocation Assistance Grant award to retain 300 employees, which the New Jersey Economic Development Authority's board approved in March 2012. Shortly after, the FMERA board approved the site's purchase-sale agreement with CommVault in April 2012, which coincided with an amendment to the Fort Monmouth redevelopment plan to permit commercial development on the site, instead of 126 residential units.
Tinton Falls Mayor Michael Skudera, who also serves on the FMERA board, said in a statement the company's move "will be a good boost to the local economy," but Oceanport Mayor Michael J. Mahon — the lone FMERA board member who steadfastly voted "no" to CommVault's proposal throughout the board's approval process — said economic opportunity for Tinton Falls comes at the sacrifice of a significant corporate tenant for Oceanport.
"In this context, we've already suffered the loss of Fort Monmouth and a couple thousand jobs located in the third of it that was in Oceanport, and then to have the first sale opportunity within the fort actually take a business out of one fort community and relocate it less than four miles away into the fort itself, it's kind of like picking the same scab," Mahon said. "This is something that I just couldn't vote 'yes' to simply because the practice of cannibalizing a business to go into the fort from any one of the communities with fort land really is not bringing jobs to New Jersey, and nearby jobs shouldn't be targets for a marketing strategy."
Despite the sting from the deal, Mahon said Oceanport's loss is "minor in the scheme of things," as he shares the FMERA's optimism that the firm's expansion "has the ability to become an anchor for further development for the fort, including Oceanport's third of it," and he's confident the business park where CommVault is currently located will quickly draw offers from potential corporate tenants.