STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Twenty years after the U.S. Navy left the Stapleton home port behind, redevelopment of the prime piece of waterfront has finally begun — and it’s just the beginning of $1 billion in private investment slated for the North Shore.
“Now, at long last , we’re about to do something different with this site, something new,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “Not a naval vessel but a bright new future for a stunning, but long neglected, stretch of our waterfront.”
Bloomberg was on hand Thursday to turn a shovel at the groundbreaking for the $150 million development that will eventually contain 900 apartments and 30,000 square feet of retail space — all of it with “some of the best harbor views anywhere in the city,” he said, featuring the Manhattan skyline and the towering Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
And the city will pump $32 million into the project, in the form of infrastructure upgrades, including development of a waterfront esplanade. Of the apartments, 20 percent will rent for below-market rates, Bloomberg said, and the enterprise will create 1,100 construction and 150 permanent jobs.
“Today’s groundbreaking also marks a big step toward realizing our vision for the dynamic future of Staten Island’s entire North Shore,” Bloomberg said.
With the New York Wheel and Empire Outlets planned to open beside the St. George Ferry Terminal in 2016, and Light House Point identified as a spot for another mixed-use development that would include a hotel, Bloomberg said roughly $1 billion in private investment in projects “are going to bring new life, new jobs, new opportunity to this community.”
“Welcome to the Renaissance of the North Shore,” City Councilwoman Debi Rose (D-North Shore) said.
At the home port, phase one, to be completed in 2015, will include 570 apartments and 25,000 square feet of retail — which David Barry, president of Hoboken-based developer Ironstate, said would be mainly food-and-drink options, so people can enjoy time along the waterfront. Many of them will be familiar names, but not national chains, he said.
“We’re looking in places like Brooklyn, in Staten Island and in New Jersey,” he said. “We’re not focusing on national chains, but people who have successful businesses in these areas and are looking to open a second or third location.”
They’re also looking to attract the twentysomethings who routinely flee the borough to live somewhere hipper, more affordable, or more connected to mass transit.
“This development is designed to be particularly attractive to young Staten Islanders, just starting their careers,” Bloomberg said. “And that’s going to meet an unfilled need on Staten Island, which for too long has lost many of its young adults to other boroughs, just because they couldn’t find apartments the right size for somebody starting out.”
The development has been long in coming — Borough President James Molinaro said requests for proposals first went out in 2003, 10 years after the Navy left. It took until 2008, he said, to find Ironstate and bring them to the Economic Development Corporation to get approved for the job said — and it was a further five years to the groundbreaking.
But Molinaro said it wouldn’t have happened at all without a third term for Bloomberg.
“Do you really think we’d be standing here today, or sitting here today celebrating this? Do you think we’d be celebrating the Wheel or the outlet center? No, we wouldn’t have been. We definitely wouldn’t have been,” Molinaro said. “So the additional term that he ran for, people may not be satisfied in Queens or Brooklyn or the Bronx. I really don’t care. For Staten Island, it was a blessing.”
There were many ideas for the area — including a park, which Molinaro shot down, saying the area should generate tax revenue. Ms. Rose said the best idea ultimately won out.
“This one turned out to be the most comprehensive strategy that would benefit our local economy as well as maintain our young people in place,” she said. ‘When we lose them we lose what they have to share with our communities.”
It’s Ironstate’s first development in Staten Island — but they’ve developed dozens of waterfront locations, including the W Hotel in Hoboken and Pier Village in Long Branch in New Jersey.
“We’re in a period of time when a lot of our industrial properties are changing over and becoming more commercial and more residential, and I think this is emblematic of that,” Barry said, “and emblematic of this move to respect the outer boroughs and what they have to offer.”
The project has been built to FEMA’s new flood standards, Barry said, and the company’s waterfront developments elsewhere weathered Sandy well. In addition to being at the proper elevations, the homeport development will feature generators to power elevators, charge phones and keep the management office running.
“We’re very, very confident that we are well-prepared for any storm that’s going to come,” Barry said.