The smoke that once billowed from underground chemical fires and wreaked havoc on the Pulaski Skyway was not enough to discourage Prologis Inc. in 2005, when it first moved to buy a large piece of a former landfill in Jersey City.
So it should be no surprise that the company endured a complex environmental cleanup and secured a key zoning change by 2008, making way for what will become one the region's largest new industrial facilities.
"Fast forward, and here we are today," said Jay Cornforth, president of the east region of Prologis. "We're under construction and we've got two tenants, but it was a tremendous amount of work in that three-year period to even get us to that point."
The company was slated to officially break ground today at the future Pulaski Distribution Center, a facility along the Hackensack River that will have nearly 900,000 square feet of space. And it's celebrating the milestone with two major tenants firmly in hand, Peapod, a subsidiary of food retailer Ahold USA, and Imperial Bag & Paper Co. — both thanks to two of New Jersey's most important business incentive programs.
The two companies signed on last year, allowing Prologis to build a huge facility that's four miles from the port and three miles from New York City, Cornforth said.
"That's what made all of this hard work and effort worthwhile — to be able to build such a large building — because we really knew the demand was there … and that a building of this size would be such a unique thing," Cornforth said.
The project, which is expected to be complete in spring 2014, will give new life to the former Superfund site. But KSS Architects partner Edmund P. Klimek, whose firm designed the facility, said it also represents the ongoing return of industrial facilities to urban areas like Jersey City.
"For so long, industrial development had been thought of happening as kind of remote areas in green fields," said Klimek, whose firm is based in Princeton. "And now what we're doing with this and similar projects is bringing industrial development back into the urban context."
The marriage of industrial projects and cities also allows such projects to be designed to environmental certifications that often are not available to suburban warehouse projects. For the Prologis building, the firm has designed both a waterfront walking path and a detention basin that will catch rainwater, rather than have it seep into the river as it did in the site's previous life.
"It's kind of a real win-win situation, and I think that's going to set a precedent for how cities think about bringing industrial back into the urban planning," Klimek said.