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Developer Outlines Financing To Transform Fort Hancock at Gateway National Recreation Area


A controversial proposal to restore rundown historic buildings at Gateway National Recreation Area for commercial purposes seems to be moving forward with a financing package, according to the NRA's superintendent.

Barry Sullivan announced Tuesday that the lease agreement between the National Park Service and Sandy Hook Partners, LLC is on schedule.

“Sandy Hook Partners presented a package of information on Tuesday that details the instruments they will use to finance Phase I of their effort to rehabilitate buildings in the Fort Hancock Historic District," said Superintendent Sullivan. "By delivering this package on March 24,
they have met their contractual deadline to present a detailed financial package to the National Park Service.

"Our written agreement with Sandy Hook Partners calls for the National Park Service to review, analyze and verify SHP’s financial package within 90 days, a process that will include expert analysis provided by Price Waterhouse Coopers,” he added.

The developer, Jim Wassel, has maintained that his efforts to restore three dozen buildings will benefit the facilities by restoring and maintaining them, as opposed to watching them continue to deteriorate because the Park Service lacks the financial wherewithal to do just that.

Among Mr. Wassel's plans for his restoration of Fort Hancock is to possibly turn 16 Officer's Row homes into bed-and-breakfast inns. A dorm once used for U.S. troops could be transformed into classrooms for Rutgers University and conference facilities. Mess halls, gymnasiums, even the old mule barn and the officer's club would be restored under the plan. And the NPS would spend $2.2 million on a new dock for ferries from Manhattan.

Ahead of submitting their Phase I financial package, Sandy Hook Partners moved forward on the
project in 2008 by restoring three important Fort Hancock structures: The Chapel, The Post
Theater, and the former Headquarters building. Upon completion of the work last fall, the
buildings were immediately made available for educational functions, including a high school
marine science and coastal ecology seminar jointly conducted by the Jacques Cousteau National
Estuarine Research Reserve, Rutgers University and the National Park Service.

“The Fort Hancock Historic District tells an important story about our nation’s history of coastal defense. As one of the best examples of early 20th century fort architecture, we must preserve this place for future generations,” said Superintendent Sullivan. “When all three phases of the Fort Hancock historic leasing project are complete, at least $75 million will have been spent to preserve these buildings at no cost to taxpayers.”

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