It has been nearly two years in the making, ever since the State of New Jersey created an agency to flesh out the redevelopment of the soon-to-be-shuttered Fort Monmouth, and now the public has gotten a look at what might happen to the 1,126-acre installation. The process has actually been in motion since 2005 when the Pentagon Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) placed Fort Monmouth on its closure list, with its functions to be shifted to Aberdeen, MD by 2011.

And the preliminary plan unveiled in recent days by the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Planning Authority (FMERPA) carries a hefty price tag, $1 billion, not counting the cost of buying the land from the US Army. In general terms, it involves 1.5 million sf of office space, developed through a combination of new construction and redevelopment/conversion of existing fort buildings. Also part of the plan is 200,000 sf of retail space, 1,500 new homes, two hotels, a new VA healthcare facility and 450 acres of parks and open space.

A key target for the office component will be tech-related jobs — the 90-year-old Fort Monmouth’s mission has been Army communications, intelligence gathering and research. For that, redevelopment officials are looking specifically at the fort’s Myer Center in Tinton Falls and the McAfee Center in Oceanport, used by the Army’s electronic warfare directorate, as magnets.

Besides Tinton Falls and Oceanport, Fort Monmouth also sprawls across Eatontown, where its main gate lies. The general plan calls for all three towns to foot the bill for maintenance and emergency services of the redeveloped installation. And they would also share the wealth through a revenue-sharing plan to be developed.

“This has all the elements that we’ve been advocating,” Eatontown Mayor Gerald J. Tarantolo said at the plan’s unveiling. “I think that it is all starting to fall into place.”

“We have a tremendous asset here in the fort,” says Timothy N. Delorm, vice president of the San Francisco-based EDAW Inc., the planning firm hired by FMERPA to develop the plan.

Other specifics of the plan call for the fort’s 18-hole golf course to be retained, but under private ownership. Other recreational features, including a community center, bowling lanes, pool and marina, would also be retained.

And FMERPA officials are thinking “green.” Besides the open space and walking trails envisioned, alternative energy in the form of hydrogen fuel cell development and geothermal energy development are also being considered, both from a development and actual usage standpoint.

FMERPA officials also estimate that it could take upwards of 20 years to build all of this out, and to effectively replace Fort Monmouth’s economic impact. Besides its 5,000 employees, its activities support another 22,000 jobs, pumping an estimated $3.2 billion a year into the state’s economy.

“This has the capability of developing a lot faster than that,” says Frank Cosentino FMERPA’s executive director. “But history tells us not to be too optimistic.”

What follows next is a period of public comment, with a draft of the plan to be finalized by the end of June. After an additional period of public comment, the plan must be in the hands of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in September. If approved, FMERPA and the Army will be able to shop the plan to potential developers. The fort is expected to be redeveloped by multiple developers under FMERPA’s overall

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