Controversy was ignited when the National Park Service tendered a six-decades-long contract to a developer who wanted to turn rundown historic buildings at Gateway National Recreation Area into restaurants, B&Bs, and lecture halls. The same can't be said about a marine sciences group's renovations to another historic building at Gateway.
While plans by Sandy Hook Developers, LLC, to transform three dozen buildings at Fort Hancock fizzled due to inadequate financing, the New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium/New Jersey Sea Grant is moving ahead with external renovation work on Building No. 22 at Fort Hancock. While it started out in life as a military barracks, since 1972 the building has served as a field station and home office for the marine sciences agencies, which are cooperating partners with the National Park Service.
Although the NJMSC/NJSG has maintained the building over the past 37 years, significant work was needed to bring the facility up to modern building codes and still meet strict federal preservation guidelines. NJMSC/NJSG applied for and received two grants in early 2005 totaling nearly $527,000 from the New Jersey Historic Trust to help with the restoration and renovation project and subsequently signed a 20-year lease with the Park Service. NJMSC/NJSG then raised all of the required matching funds needed to restore the facility and held a restoration groundbreaking ceremony in 2007.
The contractor search and bidding process, historic preservation research and other preparation requirements took nearly two years to complete, but the project officially got under way on August 19th. The initial phase of the project will include repair and restoration of the building’s West elevation (which faces the Pershing Field Parade Ground) and window and door replacements.
“We couldn’t be happier to restore this historic structure which has meant so much to our organization. From this building, we’ve been able to work with groups, individuals and more than 30,000 school children each year who want to better understand New Jersey’s marine and coastal environment," said Claire Antonucci, acting president of the marine sciences group. "Our daily operations, field trip schedules and special programs will continue uninterrupted throughout the restoration project.”
Dave Avrin, superintendent of the park’s Sandy Hook Unit, noted the Park Service is excited to have NJMSC/NJSG taking the lead on such a significant restoration effort. “We are delighted that restoration of this building will serve as a model for future restoration of other large historic structures at Fort Hancock,” said the superintendent.
The New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium/New Jersey Sea Grant is an affiliation of colleges, universities and other groups dedicated to advancing knowledge and stewardship of New Jersey’s marine and coastal environment. NJMSC/NJSG meets its mission through its innovative research, education and outreach programs.