Tuscan property in midst of upgrade

Photos by Peter Fiorrila Progress can be seen at the old Tuscan Dairy site, where developers are constructing warehouse space to serve Port Elizabeth customers, among others.
Photos by Peter Fiorrila
Progress can be seen at the old Tuscan Dairy site, where developers are constructing warehouse space to serve Port Elizabeth customers, among others.

UNION, NJ — When motorists cross over from Interstate Highway 78 to the Garden State Parkway, for the better part of a decade they’ve seen a “blighted area” at 750 Union Ave. representing Union, said Ronald Manzella, the township of Union’s administrator. Many residents refer to the location as “the old Tuscan Dairy site.”

Tuscan Dairy closed their shop in 2006, and since then, the property hasn’t generated any revenue for the town. But that’s about to change. By the end of the year, the new property owners, Bridge Development Partners, hope to complete warehouse buildings on the 18-acre site. These structures, they said, will be productive, visually appealing, and painted white with concrete walls.

“What attracted us to the site was the visibility. I think everybody has known the old Tuscan Dairy site forever. And unfortunately, as the company changed hands a couple of times, they probably became less and less productive from the dairy days to the bottling days to ultimately just being a place to park the trailers,” said Jeff Milanaik, a principal with Bridge Development Partners. “What I had looked at was a great opportunity, with terrific access to Route 22 and I-78 and the ports, which are literally just 6 miles away. And I just saw an opportunity to demolish all the old existing buildings, which frankly weren’t generating any ratables for the town, or jobs, or anything.”

Ever since the Chicago-based Bridge Development Partners approached the town about a year and a half ago, the overall reception has been positive. Everyone in the township has been been “super cooperative with us every step of the way,” said Milanaik. The roughly 262,000 square feet of storage space will remain in the construction phase for several months, and will later be leased out to companies that regularly use local ports.

For Union, a highly visible, unused property will finally have the ability to generate taxes again, although how much depends on the income that the property brings in, said Manzella.

“We won’t know that until it comes online. A lot depends on their income, the income is based on what they negotiate for storage, that would come later on, and hopefully it’s added to the tax rolls. It would come as an add-on, because this year you have the rate for next year and it doesn’t get adjusted until the third quarter,” said Manzella. “They started construction at the beginning of this year. It’s pre-cast concrete walls, metal-truss ceiling and roof. At the end, it will be a very attractive, clean looking site, with a nice tax rateable for the township.”

Bridge Development Partners is trying to market the space, according to Milanaik, to clients who use ports in New Jersey, which have been getting busier because of regular closures at the Bayonne Bridge. Once everything is operational, Milanaik expects the property to create about 1,500 jobs, and drivers will move goods from ports to the warehouses in relatively little time.

But the site of the warehouses, which borders residential neighborhoods in the township, won’t be affected by trucks, according to Manzella, and there won’t be any negative incidents along those lines. If anything, residents in those areas will be living next to a cleaner, nicer-looking space than before, added Manzella.

“It will not have any negative impact on the residential community, because truck traffic is not allowed past the Parkway bridge. There won’t be trucks driving in a residential neighborhood,” said Manzella. “I think it takes a blighted area and turns it into a pleasant-looking, landscaped, clean industry. There’s not a lot of people working there, so you don’t have a lot of traffic being generated by the workers there.”

When Bridge Development Partners first bought the property, according to Milanaik, they spent $1 million on demolition to clear the old Tuscan Dairy buildings. It’s been worth the effort because they want to work in “mature, major markets in the U.S., of which New Jersey is one,” said Milanaik, a goal which will be mutually beneficial with the township.

“We’re getting nothing but compliments from everyone who drives by,” said Milanaik. “I think the visual appeal of the building will be there, but also, it’s about working with the town and putting the township of Union back into the pro-development, industrial-era focus, trying to clean up some older properties and try to do right by the township, so I think it’s a real shot in the arm for the town. Every time somebody drives by, it’s definitely going to identify Union.”