An aerial view of the 54-acre former Woodbridge Developmental Center site at 289 Rahway Ave. in Avenel — Courtesy: Township of Woodbridge
By Joshua Burd
The township of Woodbridge is seeking proposals from developers interested in transforming the 54-acre site of a former state-owned complex for residents with developmental disabilities.
The municipality this week issued requests for qualifications and proposals for the now-shuttered Woodbridge Developmental Center at 289 Rahway Ave., following the town’s acquisition of the property earlier this week. Currently home to a series of vacant, defunct buildings, the site has been designated an area in need of redevelopment under state law and now offers the potential to repurpose a large parcel in one of the state’s largest municipalities.
Responses are due May 29. Mayor John McCormac said the town is not seeking proposals for residential uses, given the mixed-use development taking place elsewhere in the sprawling municipality, but envision a plan that will complement those projects.
“We’ve always thought it would be some combination of commercial use, educational use and health care-related use,” McCormac said. “But we don’t know yet the exact parameters of the development because we want to see what concepts the developers have.”
The municipality is also seeking “someone that’s going to be able to act reasonably quickly to develop it,” he said, especially given the site’s history. The state closed the 50-year-old campus in early 2015 amid declining enrollment in such facilities, paving the way for the township to acquire the property in hopes of attracting developers.
The concept was nearly derailed by a state commission’s proposal to build a youth prison on part of the site, but those plans fell through early last year. Gov. Phil Murphy subsequently signed into law a bill that would authorize the state to sell the 54-acre parcel to the municipality.
Woodbridge closed on the property earlier this week for $5 million and has designated it as the Silver Oaks Redevelopment Area, which sits within the town’s Avenel section. Along with its access to the New Jersey Turnpike and Route 1, the site offers the potential for builders to take advantage of incentives and financing tools available under the state’s redevelopment law.
“Further, where respondents are able to supplement their proposal by demonstrating ownership of, or the ability to acquire, land adjacent to the Redevelopment Area, the Township will consider including all owned parcels when considering future economic incentives to the redevelopment,” the RFP reads. The request also notes that the area is being made available for purchase and redevelopment “as is,” including with respect to any environmental conditions at or affecting the redevelopment areas.
McCormac, meantime, said the township is also open to proposals from industrial developers, given the overwhelming demand for logistics space in the well-located municipality.
“We have such an unbelievable demand for warehouse space in town that I would not be surprised if that was a major component,” he said.
Interested parties can view the RFP by clicking here. McManimon, Scotland and Baumann LLC is serving as the redevelopment counsel for the site.