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Former fort may house Oceanport’s municipal complex

By KENNY WALTER
Staff Writer

OCEANPORT — With the four-year anniversary of superstorm Sandy quickly approaching, the Borough of Oceanport may have finally found a future home for its municipal complex.

Councilman Joseph Irace said last week that the borough is currently focusing on working with the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) on arriving at a price for the borough to purchase Building 901.

“It will be our new home if the numbers work, and that’s what we are looking through now,” he said. “It is going to come down to numbers, and it has to make sense financially for the borough.

“I think we are going to move pretty quick to get shovels in the ground because it is getting kind of old being where we are.”

According to Irace, converting the buildings into a municipal center would not take a great effort.

“The outside is fine. The structure of the building is in great shape. We’ll just have to gut the inside and reconfigure it,” he said. “It’s almost like you are starting from scratch and you can do anything you want.”

While the borough is working out the financial particulars, Irace said the building should be free as the borough would immediately become a selling point for other developers looking to occupy Fort Monmouth.

“We should really get it for free, that would be the ultimate,” he said. “Us moving to Fort Monmouth would make us really the anchor tenant for Oceanport.

“If the Borough of Oceanport moves its offices there, then we are taking a big bet that this is going to be a thriving area, and we would be the kind of guys who could help champion the cause.”

According to Irace, the municipal complex being at the center of Fort Monmouth may lead to other types of businesses looking to take up space near there.

“If you could take 13 acres and put the hub of your town in there, you are going to have people coming in and out of there on a regular basis so then maybe you get your coffee shops and you get your bagel stores and you get your little restaurants,” Irace said. “It is mutually beneficial for us, FMERA, the state and the Army to have someone in there selling the place. Who is a better salesperson, who is a better real estate agent than the Borough of Oceanport?”

Irace said he expects the borough-hired appraiser will have an appraisal of the Fort Monmouth buildings for council by the Aug. 18 meeting. Irace said prior to a final decision being made, the borough will host either a town hall meeting or map out time at a council meeting to present plans to the public.

During superstorm Sandy, an estimated four feet of water swept through the former Borough Hall meeting room, while up to 18 inches of water flooded the rest of the complex at 222 Monmouth Blvd., which was built in 1965. The council moved its meetings to Maple Place Elementary School.

The borough has considered several options for the municipal building, including rebuilding on the current site, occupying various buildings at the fort or constructing a building at either Maria Gatta Park or East Main Street.

Contact Kenny Walter at kwalter@gmnews.com.

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