Mayor ‘Guardedly Confident’ Area 5 West Project Will Be Built
The Fort Lee Planning Board approved the “Hudson Lights” project for the western half of Redevelopment Area 5 Monday, which now sets in motion a process Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich says could end with a groundbreaking by the end of September.
The Fort Lee Planning Board Monday unanimously approved Tucker Development Corporation’s mixed-use site plan for the roughly eight-acre West parcel of Redevelopment Area 5, but Fort Lee Mark Sokolich says groundbreaking on the long-vacant 16 acres of land just south of the George Washington Bridge is still months away, and that he has “guarded confidence that it will be constructed.”
“It’s never been closer in its 46-year, tattered past,” Sokolich said Tuesday morning. “It’s never been vetted more; it’s never been analyzed more.”
Tucker was seeking final approval of its plan, known as Hudson Lights, for more than 165,000 square feet of retail space, a 175-room hotel, about 477 residential units and parking for an estimated 1,200 cars.
In March, the board approved Fort Lee Redevelopment Associates (FLRA)’s site plan, also known as The Center at Fort Lee, for the East parcel of Redevelopment Area 5. That plan, which the board also approved unanimously, includes two 47-story towers with 902 luxury residential units, a 1.7-acre public park, a restaurant and a small movie theater, among other amenities.
Together the two plans are estimated at total of about a $1 billion investment in Redevelopment Area 5.
“So now you have two qualified developers who have obtained local Planning Board approval,” Sokolich said. “They’ve gone through the RFP process, they’ve executed settlement agreements and they’ve executed redevelopment agreements.”
He added, “Nobody’s ever gotten it this far so with guarded confidence, I’m looking forward to the project starting. But with a project this size, there’s so many different things that can happen.”
He said getting the plan approved on Monday was fortuitous because it gives the board’s attorney time to prepare what he called “a very, very detailed resolution.”
He said the next step in the process is a written resolution memorializing the approval, which is something he expects to happen at the Planning Board’s next public meeting in two weeks.
Once that resolution is adopted, Tucker will publish notice of the resolution being adopted, which, in turn, triggers a 45-day appeal period, according to Sokolich.
“They’re in the process of finalizing their financing, and now that they’ve obtained approval, they’re going to feverishly work on plans that are required to have building permits issued,” the mayor said. “The plans that have been prepared to date are for presentation purposes to the board. All that fine, fine detail is now required for building permits.”
Tucker will now work concurrently on finalizing financing, environmental remediation—a topic discussed at Monday’s meeting—and the plans themselves so they’re “building permit ready,” Sokolich said.
He estimated that process will take at least a couple months and said that if the developer applies for and is issued a building permit by late August or early September, “I think you’re doing pretty good.”
“I would say not before September; it’s a behemoth of a project, and as a consequence, everything is a monumental step,” Sokolich said. “I think that if you see a groundbreaking on this project by the end of September, we’re doing exceptionally well.”