Matrix is the name of the firm hired by the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority to negotiate the conveyance of the property from the Army to the community. A matrix is also a good description of the plan it presented to the board last night.
The Geographic Information Systems, which Matrix uses, is essentially a database of all the information Matrix has gathered on the characteristics, assets and liabilities of the fort, which will allow it to form an electronic master plan.
Unlike a typical business plan that shows a snapshot in time, the electronic master plan is designed with GIS to be a “living document,” which will adapt to changes in the market and on the property, said Dan Schnepf, a principal at the Denver, Colo. based Matrix Design Group.
It is a complex database designed to work for FMERA in three major areas:
- Negotiation with the Department of Defense for the sale of the fort.
- Financial stewardship and land use development in the future, up to 30 years out.
- Meeting the regulatory requirements for the Economic Development Conveyance approval, which is required by the federal government before a base can be turned over to the public.
Part of getting EDC approval Matrix representatives said, is showing that FMERA has a plan of sustainable growth and development for the site, including job creation.
Some of the things included in this GIS plan are liabilities such as: environmental contamination, which must be remediated (at the Army’s expense), crumbling infrastructure such as the electrical system that one Matrix representative referred to as “at the end of its life,” roadways that don’t meet Department of Transportation Standards, and buildings which are so big that they may be difficult to market.
Representatives from Matrix spent two hours explaining their methodology and reasoning behind the GIS to the public and the more than 20 members of the board and state representatives present. Schnepf estimates that his firm is 25 percent of the way through building the document and will have a draft to the board in about four weeks.
What makes the electronic master plan living, said Matrix Vice President, Frank Tyboroski, is the plan’s ability to adapt when one aspect of the project is changed. For instance, he said, if plumbing must be changed at one building on the fort, this change will “cascade back into the system,” effecting everything including market issues such as lease prices.
Caren Franzini, who was sitting in for an absent board member and who is CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which oversees FMERA, noted how this living document had already proved useful to the board. Recently, she said, a business expressed an interest in one of the larger facilities on the fort. “We were immediately able to email (the property details) to someone looking for a big site.”
In the negotiation process that is to come, the GIS is also a bargaining chip of sorts.
“The Army came to the table saying this is a piece of property that we’re going to make a lot of money off of. This information tonight says we have to create jobs (to make it sustainable) and this gives us more ammo, if you will, to sit at the negotiating table,” Franzini said. “There are lots of costs to get to the vision of what the community and this board has.”
Schnepf and Tyboroski and their colleuagues, John Blanchard and Julia Carver, referred again and again to the deductions and/or costs that the fort comes with. Each one represents a lower price point at which the board believes it can acquire the fort. Though that price tag is nowhere near ready to be written, Franzani said, “The Army is not going to walk away with hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s just not going to happen.”
For the most part, Eatontown Mayor Tarantolo said he was glad to see that so far Matrix’s evaluation and future projections supported the earlier work that the board’s predecessor, Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Planning Authority did. One change that Matrix noted, is the ratio of commercial to residential development. The original plan called for more extensive commercial development.
Matrix officials said that given the current economy and real estate market this ratio would have to be tweaked. Tyboroski noted several buildings on the fort with enormous square footage, including the Meyer Center, a former research and development site with approximately 670,000 square feet of space. According to Blanchard, “this market wouldn’t support that.”
Following the meeting Tarantolo said that he believed there has to be a balance between the commercial and residential and wanted to see Matrix stick as close to the original plan as possible. While he said he is willing to make some compromise, he said the plan had to reflect the plan that he and the mayors of Oceanport and Tinton Falls had presented to their residents two years ago. “Now our credibilitiy is an issue.”
Editor’s note: Check back with Patch for future articles on the environmental impact of the fort, the affordable housing component, the development time table, the effect on local business and what the state is doing to make job creation at the fort a priority.