When Hugo Neu Corporation wanted to turn a former industrial campus – 130 acres at the confluence of the Hackensack and Passaic Rivers in New Jersey – into a mixed-use waterfront destination, the developer knew it wanted a revitalization that would promote sustainability and energy efficiency.
While the environmental benefits are the main driver in Kearny Point’s push for sustainability, Hugo Neu also has financial considerations, the company says. Developments and businesses are finding it critical to demonstrate environmental and social responsibility in order to attract Millennial and Generation Z populations. Additionally, commercial properties with well-designed green infrastructure, including renewable energy technologies, can pull higher rents while reducing lifecycle and maintenance costs, water costs, and flood damage.
“We have to look at making the strategic investments that are no longer about a single outcome but are about multiple outcomes,” Dominique Lueckenhoff, vice president for corporate affairs and sustainability for the project, told Environmental Leader. “Green infrastructure mimics nature, and it’s constructive. There are multiple benefits”
Challenges & Benefits
Sustainable efforts in four key economic systems – food and agriculture, cities, energy and materials, and health and well-being – could be worth up to $12 trillion a year worldwide for the private sector by 2030, according to the Business and Sustainable Development Commission.
Lueckenhoff, who prior to coming aboard the Kearny Point project was an influential policy leader for the EPA, understands the challenges inherent in a revitalization project. “Along the I-95 corridor, developers are, for example, challenged with cleanup of historic brownfield sites and legacy pollutants. These historic industrial corridors had lots of smelters, lots of emissions, in addition to older, deteriorated infrastructure,” she explains. “Developers have to ask themselves, what do we clean up and fix first?”
Lueckenhoff says she looks at a project of this size by breaking it down into the sustainability components of “People, Planet and Profit.”
“If you look at those three major components, each within itself has complexities and performance targets depending on the business, on the community, what the community values, its economic status,” she says. “Then, of course, there are regulatory requirements. So you have to look at all these considerations across all three areas.”
The Kearny Point master plan features more than 27 acres of open and civic space, restored native habitat, green roofs, naturalized detention basins, bio-swales, and high efficiency building systems:
- The developer is also removing impermeable surfaces throughout the site, replacing them with permeable surfaces that are estimated to reduce run-off into local waterways by 15 million gallons per year.
- Eight engineered bio-swales, totaling approximately 17,000 square feet of planted area and draining over two acres of impervious area, will eliminate an estimated 500,000 gallons of run-off each year, according to Lueckenhoff.
- Solar and wind energy are also incorporated into the design of the project. “On the renewable energy side, there are multiple benefits. It saves money and has a quick payback. It also helps with extreme weather – if the lights go out, you have backup.”
- The project will include the installation of wind turbines, which will generate up to 4.5 megawatts of onsite renewable energy.
Sustainable developments on this scale also benefit from a financing perspective, says Lueckenhoff. The Town of Kearny, for example, was recently awarded a $3 million federal grant to implement the redevelopment of Hackensack Avenue, a critical stretch of roadway that serves as the primary entranceway to Kearny Point.
The US Economic Development Administration’s Public Work program approved the funding to transform Hackensack Avenue into a “high-performance green street,” featuring environmental improvements that will help reduce storm-related flooding and limit pollution of the local watershed, among other benefits.
Kearny Point is the type of public/private partnership that the US Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Administration are “eager to invest in,” says John Fleming, US Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development.