National Park Service officials seem to be back at square one in their deliberations over how best to utilize historic officers' quarters at Fort Hancock at Gateway National Recreation Area in New Jersey.
While there had been plans by a developer to transform three dozen of the buildings into a range of commercial establishments -- bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants, conference facilities -- that vision collapsed for lack of sound financing. In October 2009 top Park Service officials deemed the contract with Sandy Hook Partners, LLC null and void.
The developer had planned to spend $70 million-$90 million on restoring the buildings that lie within the NRA's Sandy Hook unit. Sixteen Officer's Row homes were envisioned as bed-and-breakfast inns. A dorm once used for U.S. troops was proposed to be transformed into classrooms for Rutgers University or perhaps Brookdale Community College. Mess halls, gymnasiums, even the old mule barn and the officer's club also were part of the deal. And the NPS would spend $2.2 million on a new dock so he could ferry conferees over to Fort Hancock from Manhattan.
Now Gateway officials are back to gathering public comment on how best to utilize the facilities. U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-NJ, who opposed the commercial vision, said that effort is an example of how not to manage the buildings.
“The last 20 years have provided us with an example of how not to move forward. The large lease that was established for 36 of the buildings failed. While the irresponsible lessee allowed the valuable historical buildings to deteriorate, it was the local community’s ability to enjoy the historic landmark that paid the unfortunate cost," the congressman said in a press release. "Today we are faced with even greater damage to repair and the need for additional resources to fully restore the historic buildings. I believe the course forward should move away from large development plans like Sandy Hook Partners that encourage commercialization and towards a more efficient building by building rehabilitation strategy."
According to news reports, Gateway officials now are looking for individual tenants, such as universities, to occupy the buildings.