Fort Monmouth poised for second life as a tech hub

Leah Mishkin, Correspondent | April 24, 2018

Fort Monmouth was built in 1917. It grew over time to cover about 2 square miles of property in three towns.

“We work closely with the three towns. Their planning boards have to review and approve the projects and taxes are paid to each of the three municipalities,” said David Nuse, deputy executive director for the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority.

The Fort Monmouth library dates back to World War I.

“The fort was the home of the Signal Corps, so it was used to train soldiers for Army communications,” said Nuse.

It was officially closed in 2011. The Army left behind about 5 million square feet of buildings that sat vacant for years. Nuse says when they got the bulk of the property to redevelop, there was a focus to target the tech industry.

“This was the research and development center for the Signal Corps and later for CECOM, so there’s a lot of talent in the local area. A lot of the Army employees and contractors chose to stay here because of the quality of life,” Nuse said.

The property is about 3 miles off the beach, and a quarter-mile from a train station that goes right to New York Penn Station. The team hopes this will attract millennials. The goal is then to create a walkable community on site with amenities like housing, restaurants, and retail to support the tech workers and companies.

“We just sold a building across the street,” Nuse said. “It’s a 1942 dance hall operated by the Army and we’re bringing in a microbrewery, a coffee house and event space to that location.”

When you start to drive around, you realize how much history is on site.

“We have another six World War II barracks buildings, we found a buyer. A local philanthropist who’s going to set up artist live/work space in those buildings,” Nuse said.

There is a vision to turn these 50 acres of land property into a tech and research park. Nuse says about 70 percent of the fort is either sold, in a contract or under negotiations. The hope is to get 10,000 jobs here, $1.5 billion of development, by 2025.

“Commvault Systems is our anchor tenant. They are occupying about 55 acres in Tinton Falls and they’ve got close to a thousand employees there. We have two other tech companies, one a defense contractor, AASKI Technology in Tinton Falls,” Nuse said.

“In an environment where there is no infrastructure, we support the Army in the ability to deploy the required systems and capability to make sure they can communicate in the field,” said AASKI CEO Bharat Parikh.

Parikh says he and his wife, who is the president of the company, both were army civilians through the 1990s.

“I was stationed in building 209 in Fort Monmouth all nine years I was in the government,” Parikh said. “Started our careers on Fort Monmouth and now having our headquarters on Fort Monmouth is extremely exciting for us.”

“There have been a lot of people who have come through Fort Monmouth and this is a very important place for them. At one point there were 30,000 people here at the height of World War II,” Nuse said.

When the fort closed, roughly 8,000 people lost their jobs. Parikh says he and his wife witnessed the base empty out and that’s why it’s important for them to hire veterans.

A retired Army colonel who works for the company shows pieces of the World War II-era building.

There are signs of the past hidden away in all areas of the property which is now being brought back to life.