By Joshua Burd
The state agency that guides redevelopment of the iconic 1,100-acre Fort Monmouth property will soon have its first new leader in more than a decade.
Bruce Steadman, the executive director of the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority, will step down after nearly 12 years at the helm, state officials said last week. They also announced that Kara Kopach, the authority’s deputy executive director and director of real estate, will step into the role effective May 1.
Economic Development Authority CEO Tim Sullivan announced the news after FMERA’s monthly board meeting.
“Completing the transformation and redevelopment of Fort Monmouth is a critical component of Governor Murphy’s economic development strategy, and the FMERA team has had an extraordinary leader in Bruce,” Sullivan said. “While I am sad to see this chapter of the Fort’s transformation come to a close, Bruce is leaving the Fort in Kara’s capable hands. I am certain that her passion for this project and the commitment of the talented FMERA team will help to keep the Fort’s redevelopment on its successful trajectory.”
State officials have spent more than a decade working to revitalize the sprawling former U.S. Army base, which spans the Monmouth County communities of Oceanport, Tinton Falls and Eatontown, but was closed by the Pentagon in 2011. Steadman has served as its executive director since Dec.1, 2010, guiding the build-out and ongoing development of projects valued at more than $1 billion.
FMERA’s redevelopment efforts have created more than 1,500 jobs with another 1,400 jobs contractually committed to date, according to a news release. Currently, some 85 percent of the Fort Monmouth property is in one stage or another of redevelopment, with one of its largest redevelopment opportunities currently on the market.
The state estimates that the final buildout of Fort Monmouth will approach $3 billion in value and facilitate the creation of some 10,000 jobs, which Steadman said is a reflection of the authority’s board of directors, including former chairs Dr. Robert Lucky and James V. Gorman, and its in-house staff.
“The FMERA team’s primary focus is, and always has been, to implement and oversee the Fort Monmouth Reuse and Redevelopment Plan and to achieve FMERA’s mission: create an atmosphere in which employers will employ and investors will invest, to maximize the jobs created and the value of the property,” Steadman said. “With nearly 40 ongoing or completed projects already reshaping the community and generating vital tax revenue, I am extremely proud of FMERA’s accomplishments and am confident in its future under Kara’s leadership. It has been my privilege to work with such a motivated, talented, enthusiastic and creative group of individuals in the FMERA team and throughout the EDA.”
Kopach, for her part, has been a member of FMERA’s real estate development team since she joined the organization in 2015 as a senior project officer for real estate development. She has served as the real estate development manager, and most recently, as deputy executive director and director of real estate development.
In her current role, Kopach has direct responsibility for the marketing, development and financial plans associated with FMERA’s mission of redeveloping Fort Monmouth, the news release said. She has represented Steadman, as needed, with the FMERA board, committees and stakeholders, as well as EDA’s board and staff and at FMERA events and meetings.
She oversees the real estate development team and leads contract negotiations and project management for the Fort’s prospective buyers, investors and entrepreneurs.
“Bruce has successfully led us through over a decade of redevelopment,” Kopach said. “He leaves big shoes to fill, but I know that our team is ready for the challenge. I am thrilled to be able to lead FMERA into this next chapter of development and am committed to the continued revitalization of the Fort community.”
Kopach began her career with the EDA in 2014 as a hearing officer for the Stronger NJ Business Grant and Loan Programs. Prior to joining the authority, she served for six years as a U.S. Army civilian employee on Fort Monmouth.
The Eatontown resident is a graduate of the University of Scranton and the Seton Hall University of Law.