Western New Jersey

Updated Ingersoll redevelopment plan in the works in Phillipsburg

PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. - In late-2012, Phillipsburg officials declared a major breakthrough in longstanding efforts to redevelop the former Ingersoll Rand site when the town in December purchased most of the property from Preferred Unlimited Inc. for $1.

Town officials are now anticipating early-2013 to yield another critical step toward redevelopment with the expected adoption of an updated redevelopment plan for 280 acres of the Ingersoll site located in Phillipsburg.

Officials discussed the pending redevelopment plan during Town Council's Tuesday night work session.

During the work session, Town Planner David Maski said the municipal planning board during its Jan. 24 meeting is expecting to consider recommending an updated Ingersoll redevelopment plan to Town Council. In turn, Council will make a final determination on whether to adopt, by ordinance, all or part of the planning board's recommendations.

Maski said the updated redevelopment plan currently being reviewed by the planning board does not mark a major change to the redevelopment plan approved by Council back in 2005, when then owner Preferred Unlimited was the master redeveloper for the project. Preferred Unlmited had bought the property nearly a decade ago for $16 million with its own plan to redevelop the site, which never came to fruition.

A concept plan that had been drafted by Preferred called for the development of about 2.7 million square feet of mixed commercial uses, including light industrial and warehousing, according to Maski, who anticipates the planning board to recommend most of the same type of uses as proposed back in 2005.

Mayor Harry Wyant said he does not envision Town Council making major changes to the 2005 plan. Wyant has said the ultimate goal is to promote future uses that add solid ratables to the tax base and create well-paying jobs.

Once an updated redevelopment plan is in place, Town Council can move ahead with entertaining formal requests from prospective redevelopers. Wyant said the goal is to have a redeveloper for the entire site appointed this year. If not, he said the town could consider parceling parts of the property to interested developers.

Now that the town owns the property, Maski said Council has the ability to change any aspects of the 2005 redevelopment plan since Preferred is no longer the master redeveloper.

"The town now has a clean slate with which to work with," noted Town Attorney Richard Wenner.

Efforts to adopt an updated redevelopment plan comes directly on the heels of Town Council closing on the property purchase from Preferred Unlimited. As part of the $1 deal, Phillipsburg is forgoing about $270,000 in property taxes owed by Preferred Unlimited.

Another 60 acres of the former Ingersoll site in Phillipsburg is currently under the control of a bank, which the town could consider purchasing.

Most of the Ingersoll site, which had considerable environmental contamination from its prior industrial use, is well on its way to being remediated, Wyant said. Many parts of the property have already been cleared for future use and outstanding remediation work is nearing approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection. Wyant anticipates any outstanding environmental remediation -- which Ingersoll is responsible for -- to be wrapped up within the next few years.

While much work still remains in bringing about the redevelopment, town officials said they are much more optimistic now than they have been in many years.

"We've come a long way in the last year," said Council Vice President Todd Tersigni. "We've taken a major step in finally getting this property redeveloped for the benefit of the Phillipsburg community."

Wyant agreed, noting that economic officials at the state government level are placing a heavy emphasis on the Ingersoll redevelopment.

"We're closer now than we've ever been to seeing something done at this site," the mayor said. "And this time we're in control of our own destiny," unlike previous redevelopment efforts in which the town had relied first on Ingersoll and then Preferred Unlimited.

Another 103 acres of the former Ingersoll Rand property is located in neighboring Lopatcong Township. In recent years, the property had been eyed by a developer for the construction of retail and residential uses, but that plan fell through as the economy soured, Maski said.

A key aspect of the proposed Ingersoll redevelopment involves the construction of a connector road that would run through both Phillipsburg and Lopatcong. The proposed road would provide a link between Roseberry Street in Phillipsburg and Route 22 in Lopatcong just east of the Route 57 split.

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