BY BILL CLEARY
THE KOCH TANK FARM DEVELOPMENT-Did you ever wonder what happened with the deal that Gloucester City struck with Koch regarding their facility on Water Street ? If you recall around 2004 there was a settlement of Koch’s appeal of a Planning Board denial. The deal dealt with truck traffic, some cleanup, and gave the City the right to buy the property in 2012 for 50% of its appraised value. Keep in mind that this was back when residential development of the Delaware River waterfront was the goal. A few years later Koch files bankruptcy, a massive bankruptcy involving something like 70 entities. As part of that bankruptcy Koch files to get rid of all of its contracts including the deal with the City and the Court says yes.
Asked about the status of the property, City Solicitor John Kearney said, “A year or so ago we start looking at the Koch property as part of Southport and working to integrate that parcel into the big plan. The best way to do so is to own it. We notify Koch of our intent to exercise the 2012 option and they tell us about the bankruptcy. We go through all of our files on the bankruptcy and find no notice of the motion to toss out the contracts. We say foul, we're going back to bankruptcy court because we got no notice.
“However there is a problem with that idea. The City might well be able to reopen the bankruptcy but it is very unlikely that we can get the bankruptcy court to reinstate the deal. The Gloucester City deal was one of hundreds if not thousands of deals set aside by the Court and there is nothing particular about our situation that justifies us being treated differently.
‘Nonetheless we start talking with Koch. Our residential use is long gone but we do want Koch for Southport, and we like the idea of a going concern which is employing people, paying taxes, and not having a material negative impact on the town. We strike a deal. Koch pays the City $240,000, Koch promises not to appeal its tax assessment for 3 years, promises to develop at least $500,000 in improvements to its property, and gives the City the last look in the event of a sale.
“All in all a very good result,” said Kearney.
NEW RESTAURANT COMING? Maybe! ...The City of Gloucester City passed a resolution at the June 6 work session meeting to enter into an agreement with the owners of Ott’s Bar, a Burlington County restauranteur, to discuss lease arrangements for the city owned Freedom Pier site (the former Coast Guard Base) King Street and the Delaware River. From what we been told bore samples at the pier have to be completed before a public announcement is made regarding the arrangements between the City and the owners of Otts. That announcement is expected within the next month. If our sources are correct the agreement calls for the new restaurant owners paying for the construction of the building (estimated at $1.6 million) and the City holding on to the ownership of the pier. More details to follow.
Recently the City has spent close to $400,000 on the Freedom Pier building a riverfront walk connecting the Pier to nearby Proprietors Park. Originally that work was suppose to be completed by November 2010. We were told recently that the opening of the walkway has been delayed because security cameras need to be installed.
A 30 -YEAR- OLD ‘PIPE DREAM’-The development of the City’s waterfront has been an ongoing project for 30 years. There was the Hollywood East project, the King Street Corridor Project and the Southport Development proposal to mention a few. Thousands and thousands of dollars have been spent on studies yet not one of them ever made it to actual construction. This restaurant, along with several other waterfront restaurants, were first suggested in the 80’s. In other words before you get too excited about this latest gossip wait until you actual see the concrete being pored for the footing, the frame going up for the building, the roof being nailed down, and the Grand Opening being announced. ~Bill’s Point of View
TRAFFIC NIGHTMARES AHEAD-The Christie Administration announced recently that nearly $29 million have been awarded to New Jersey counties through the state-funded Local Aid program to help repair or replace 31 county-owned bridges. In the immediate area Burlington County received $391,000 to repair the Springfield Township Bridge; Camden County received $1 million to replace the Broadway bridge that connects Gloucester City to Brooklawn; Gloucester County $1 million to replace the Barnsboro-Blackwood bridge, Mantua Township. Under the grant program, each of the state’s 21 counties receives $1 million to advance one or more bridge project. An additional $4 million is distributed on a competitive cost-benefit basis. All grant-eligible bridges are rated structurally deficient, functionally obsolete or scour-critical. Scour refers to soil erosion around bridge abutments, wing walls or piers.