By John Burton
FORT MONMOUTH – The state authority overseeing the redevelopment of the former Fort Monmouth property has signed an agreement with a private tech firm to acquire fort property.
Members of The Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) and state officials are calling the signing a major milestone in the property’s transformation.
FMERA put the finishing touches and signature on the deal on Tuesday, Jan. 29, with CommVault, which is currently headquartered in Oceanport.
The agreement represents the first sale of fort property to a private sector business, said Erin Gold, a spokesperson for the state Economic Development Authority (EDA), which oversees FMERA.
CommVault paid $5.9 million for the Tinton Falls property, Gold said.
CommVault is a publicly traded data and information management software company. The company website said it was established in 1988 as a development group within Bell Labs and then was part of the AT&T network systems. It was incorporated as an independent company in 1996.
The company, according to EDA information, plans to construct an approximately 275,000-square-foot world headquarters. At full build-out, the company will have about 650,000 square feet of office and research space, contained in one or multiple buildings at the location.
Probably most important for state and local officials, the project means not only the retention of several hundred jobs here in New Jersey, but also ultimately up to 1,500 new jobs for the region, state officials said.
That news had Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno offering her support.
“By deciding to remain, expand and invest [in] New Jersey, CommVault is providing further proof that our state is an ideal place for business,” Guadagno said in the EDA statement.
Tinton Falls Mayor Michael Skudera, a voting member of the FMERA, agreed.
“This will be a good boost to the local economy,” with the creation of hundreds of good paying IT jobs, he said.
Eatontown Mayor Gerald Tarantolo, who also serves on FMERA, acknowledged CommVault had planned to leave Oceanport and relocate to Pennsylvania if the details of the deal couldn’t be worked out.
Some members of the public have expressed reservations about the site being used for commercial activity, given it was originally designated for future residential use, Tarantolo said. But the authority decided to amend its master plan to accommodate the new use and reconfigured the plan to allow additional residential uses elsewhere on fort property, Tarantolo said.
“When you’re dealing with the fort’s closing and the loss of all the jobs and you’re trying to stimulate the economy in this area, I think the CommVault move was the right decision,” Tarantolo said.
“We needed something that would give the whole process a shot in the arm,” and this does it, Tarantolo added.
Jobs have been the longstanding issue with the closing of the fort and its ultimate redevelopment.
Since the 2005 announcement that the approximately 90-year-old fort would close, state and local officials have expressed fear about the impact on the local economy when the fort’s research and development activities moved to Maryland. The September 2011 closing meant the loss of those thousands of mostly high-paying civilian jobs in the area.
The 20-year plan for the location’s redevelopment, directed by the authority, is to draw additional high-tech industries to the site and develop the land for other uses, including residential, retail and hospitality to grow the local economy.
“The hope is with a large company like this coming in, other companies will follow and other supportive businesses will follow,” to help
to revive the local housing sector in the long run, Skudera said.
A phone call placed to CommVault was not returned by press time.
Expected next up for FMERA will be plans to turn the fort’s former Patterson Army Hospital facility over to a private health care provider, Tarantolo said. Last August, FMERA accepted a formal proposal submitted by AcuteCare Health Systems, Lakewood.