Redeveloping Harrison has been a test of patience for local officials and more than a half-dozen builders with plans for its tired industrial waterfront. But one of their biggest payoffs became reality today, when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey broke ground on a new $256 million PATH station in the Hudson County town.
“When someone says they’re going spend a quarter of a billion dollars in your community, building a new train station, that’s a testament that there’s a bright future coming,” said Peter Cocoziello, president and CEO of Advance Realty. The Bridgewater-based firm is redeveloping 80 acres between the rail line and the Passaic River.
The Port Authority project will replace a deteriorating, 77-year-old PATH facility that serves as a busy commuter stop between Newark and Jersey City. In its place by 2017 will be a glass-and-steel station that will service Harrison’s growing commercial and residential base, which could swell as several long-stalled redevelopment projects move ahead.
After the opening of the riverfront Red Bull Arena in 2011, the town is now home to Panasonic Corp.’s 48,500-square-foot technology complex. The facility was developed by Advance and Russo Development, opening in recent weeks in conjunction with Panasonic’s new North American headquarters across the river in Newark.
Meanwhile, hundreds of residential units have opened or are under construction as part of several mixed-use projects by a team of developers, which hope to transform 275 acres of mostly blighted industrial buildings. The effort goes back some 15 years, led by Harrison Mayor Raymond McDonough, who has seen plans derailed by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the real estate downturn.
To some degree, the setbacks mirror those that have held up funding for the new PATH station over several years, Cocoziello said.
“There’s a variety of issues,” he said. “But they’re just issues, and as a developer you need to have the perseverance that over time, some of these issues work themselves out.”
Other New Jersey firms, such as Ironstate Development, The Pegasus Group, Roseland Property Co. and Millennium Homes, have opened residential and retail projects in Harrison in recent years. Advance, meanwhile, plans to move ahead on two residential projects, a 107-room hotel and an outpatient wellness center in its Riverbend District. One 330-unit residential project could come before the town’s planning board in the coming months, Cocoziello said.
The Harrison PATH station serves some 7,000 commuters daily, according to the Port Authority. In 2011, the facility experienced the highest weekday growth of the system's stations, jumping 8.7 percent above 2010 levels
The construction is expected to create more than 450 jobs, while generating some $344 million in economic activity, according to a Port Authority news release.
Reporter Joshua Burd is @JoshBurdNJ on Twitter.