A partnership between J. Bezzone Inc. and The Birch Group plans to develop a 15-story, 1.2 million-square-foot complex in Carteret, as depicted in this rendering, with the project calling for film and television studios, hotel rooms, retail and restaurant space and parking, among other amenities. — Courtesy: Borough of Carteret
By Joshua Burd
A sprawling project that would bring film and television studios, hotel rooms and restaurants to a former industrial site in Carteret is moving forward after securing a key local approval.
Borough officials said as much Monday, noting that the 1.2 million-square-foot complex by J. Bezzone Inc. and The Birch Group would occupy a piece of the 33-acre former DuPont site along the Arthur Kill. Part of a $1 billion waterfront redevelopment along the town’s eastern waterfront, the 15-story complex would include a dozen 20,000-square-foot soundstages, 120 suites for hotel service and social media production, 240,000 square feet of support and office space, a 25,000-square-foot retail and restaurant pavilion, rooftop amenities and a parking lot and parking garage with 1,100 spaces.
The borough’s planning board recently approved a preliminary site plan for the project.
“It’s absolutely spectacular what’s proposed here,” Mayor Daniel J. Reiman said. “This is a great opportunity to continue to grow our industrial and commercial base, to really highlight the $2 billion in development that has happened in Carteret, and it ties in nicely with the performing arts center on Washington Avenue.
“This has the potential to create thousands of local jobs and pump a $1 billion in union construction into the waterfront area, as well as permanent long-term jobs like stagehands and the support staff that would be necessary. It’s a great project and a great opportunity for Carteret.”
Officials say the project is part of the borough’s Chrome Waterfront Redevelopment Zone north of Veterans Pier and Carteret Waterfront Park. The former brownfield site already has undergone a 10-year cleanup after decades of contamination by the former Agrico Chemical Co., which was acquired by DuPont, leaving the site vacant until a settlement with the borough around 2014.
That gave way to a series of waterfront upgrades and a planned ferry terminal that’s slated to break ground by year-end. The proposed studio complex, which would occupy about 10 acres, has been in the works for about a year as part of an effort by Shrewsbury-based Bezzone and The Birch Group, an investor based in Nyack, New York, with a plan that officials say would be different from film and television projects in Fort Monmouth, Bayonne, Harrison and Newark.
According to the borough, the project could start construction as soon as all approvals, financing and studios are in place. Plans call for the hotel to reach about 220 feet, with a rooftop that will include a pool, a lounge and catering space, while each studio would be 40 to 50 feet high.
“We are mashing up production with hospitality,” developer Joe Bezzone said. “We have created a self-sustained business ecosystem designed for New Jersey weather and transportation infrastructure. Streamers can now operate in one environment with resort-like amenities.”
The borough is in the process of purchasing other portions of the 35-acre property from DuPont, with additional plans that include an outdoor amphitheater, additional retail, commercial and restaurant space and another hotel attached to the forthcoming ferry building, according to a news release. The borough also aims to expand the existing waterfront riverwalk.
Bezzone detailed the multiuse project while highlighting Carteret’s proximity to the New Jersey Turnpike, Newark Liberty International Airport and the upcoming ferry terminal.
“Carteret’s investment in its waterfront under the bold leadership of Mayor Dan Reiman has created an engine of opportunity that we hope to share in,” Bezzone said. “For this project, we have partnered with Mark Meisner and The Birch Group who will take the ownership lead and provide the necessary resources required for a project of this magnitude and importance. This momentous achievement could not have been realized without the passion, entrepreneurism and support of Dan Reiman and Mark Meisner.”