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Fort Lee to Acquire Main Street Property for $2M for Park

The Mayor and Council passed a resolution settling a lawsuit and an ordinance financing the acquisition of land at 183 Main St., the current location of Woori Bank, for a park on the West parcel of Redevelopment Area 5.

The Fort Lee Mayor and Council Wednesday passed an ordinance to acquire land at 183 Main St. that will ultimately become a park on the western half of Redevelopment Area 5.

A resolution “amicably” settling a lawsuit over the property, which is currently occupied by Woori Bank, also passed unanimously, paving the way for the borough to purchase the land for $2,050,000, of which slightly more than $1.95 million will be financed through bonding.

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich estimated that the property is worth nearly three times what the borough is paying for it and said that having the bank building there “would have a detrimental effect on the entire area.”

Sokolich said Tucker Redevelopment Associates, the developer of the West parcel of Redevelopment Area 5, will pay for the demolition of the building and “for every cent” of developing the land as a park in accordance with the governing body’s specifications, but that Fort Lee will own the land.

Woori Bank has until June 30, 2013 to relocate, according to borough attorney Lee Cohen.

“The thought was that truly that property needs to be part of this development, and like there is a park on the East parcel, this would be a park on the West parcel,” Sokolich said.

“And we know that ultimately with the development of that site, many of those stores, restaurants, what have you, will open and interact with that park. It just seemed to me that it was an inextricable part of that property; why it was treated differently was that it was separate ownership, separate use, separate lease.”

The settlement of the lawsuit, which Sokolich said was resolved amicably but which was not immediately available for public release Wednesday, lays out all the specifics for ending the suit, the timing of the relocation and “settles all issues” among all three parties, according to Cohen, including the property owner, the borough and Tucker.

Sokolich also noted the importance of the suit having been dismissed “with prejudice.”

“There was litigation; it since had been dismissed—however, without prejudice,” he said. “There always was the ability to reactivate it, for lack of a better term.”

Borough officials “always wanted” the property to be part of the redevelopment zone, according to Sokolich, who said the roughly $2 million “has absolutely, unequivocally nothing to do with the resolution of that lawsuit.”

As part of the settlement, the town will acquire the property in a “friendly condemnation” proceeding.

“Because it’s being settled as a friendly, and it’s otherwise being amicably resolved, that falls squarely into what was contemplated in the redevelopment agreement with the contribution from the West developer,” Sokolich said, adding, “I think in the long run we’ve made a tremendous investment for Fort Lee, considering the value of that property; we’re acquiring a park in the heart of a very busy, dense area.”

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Keith Jensen December 06, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Why is Fort Lee taking another loan to get in to the real estate business? Are we taking lessons from the Port Authority who instead of managing our transportation infrastructure, they are raising tolls here in Fort Lee to pay for expensive property development in lower Manhattan? I am curious, why isn't the developer paying to acquire this land? Raising our taxes to pay to beautify the developer's parcel will allow him to attract more business to pay a high rent which I am not receiving royalties on. Where was the give and take in this negotiation? Sure, we'll get ratables; perhaps as long as it does not turn into a Xanadu project, and all real estate investments are speculative until proven fruitful. Since, Ft.Lee residents are de-facto investors maybe we can get free parking at the location, or a discount on rent, or... Heck, if Fort Lee must pay $2Million for this land, why not tell the developer to put a matching contribution to our school system which will be equally affected by this project? Finally, I look forward to the public terms of settlement and the bank's terms to cover the $2M bond, for I do not like having my property taxes raised for an investment by our Mayor and Council.
Heston December 06, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Why are we still paying for property we can't afford. Main Street is falling apart and people are moving out of Fort Lee. Where is the governer on this issue? We should be spending on infrastructure and on education, not on paying for buildings that won't do us any good. i'm getting pretty sick of it
Ed Marcus December 06, 2012 at 04:17 PM
It seems we allowed over building in this are and now we need to buy property and create parkland to compensate. To quote the Boro officials " we’re acquiring a park in the heart of a very busy, dense area.” If we had not allowed such unrealistic density we would not need this purchase. Where was the Planning Board? It would be interesting to learn if this whole project is larger than the one proposed by the original developer who tried to bribe former Mayor Burt Ross. Ed
Bob December 06, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Government should not buy any more property than it needs to fulfill its lawful and rightful purpose. A police station, a fire station, government offices are fine, but buying up land that benefits a private enterprise is an abuse of the taxpayers who fund the treasury.
Baba O'Riley December 06, 2012 at 05:28 PM
As it is said: Not for nothing; but: Do we need to spend 2 million + dollars for another park? Do we need to take another ratable off of the tax rolls? Parks are vauable for communities; but can we afford another (park)?
William Mays December 06, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Um, so you want Main Street to look good, but you are opposed to the biggest project on Main Street in it's history?
Bill December 06, 2012 at 09:03 PM
I like the idea of looking at everything involved, including if it makes financial sense and that it won't be an extra burden to the taxpayers of Fort Lee.
Jack B Goode December 06, 2012 at 11:48 PM
And don't forget, it now becomes non taxable in perpetuity......no taxes for Fort Lee, just another drain on services....If the Developer wanted it,the developer should have paid for it. .
Rona December 07, 2012 at 03:26 AM
I agree. This is the beginning of the towns costs to be incurred to develop this property. $2 mil. represents 20% of the $10 mil in revenue the town is supposed to collect in taxes on the properties once their up. Other line item expenses will come up as we go along that will make this deal less attractive to the taxpayers.
es December 08, 2012 at 07:28 PM
"Sokolich said Tucker Redevelopment Associates, the developer of the West parcel of Redevelopment Area 5, will pay for the demolition of the building and “for every cent” of developing the land as a park in accordance with the governing body’s specifications, but that Fort Lee will own the land." Sounds pretty fair to me. The Borough will still control that land. In Fair Lawn, the Borough made a half-hearted attempt at ED, but wouldn't follow through scared off by the developer's COAH ruling. Meanwhile another developer in town gets to horse-trade their fair share of affordable units already under construction in exchange for buying up another polluted land-locked site for senior housing.
Arlene Horowitz December 09, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Does anyone remember Hurricane Sandy? That $2 million would have gone a long way in ameliorating the suffering of the elderly trapped in high-rises; or perhaps in building an actual shelter, or maybe providing in the community center hot meals and showers, or maybe even wi-fi to residents without power for (in my case) two weeks. Ah yes, the community center that is, let's face it, for all intents and purposes, a private club that is virtually empty most of the time while the senior center on Main Street is bursting at the seams and in need of renovation.
Ed Marcus December 09, 2012 at 04:03 PM
It appears that we are making this deal because the bank no longer wants the site therefore are willing to sell cheap. The Boro should make public the loss of annual tax revenue form the present owner and the cost of maintaining a park by the Dept of Public works. Now that we have made this bad deal why not make it into a parking lot to make up for the parking spaces that will eventually be removed from Lemoine Ave to handle traffic flow when the new development opens. This could help our local merchants on Lemoine and Main Street.
Thomas A Bennett December 10, 2012 at 12:46 PM
I have spoken at the Mayor and council meeting a few times on the subject of "Eminent Domain". A person or company purchases a location and puts up a building in which to do business. They build a successful business. Along comes a group of Politicians who are spending taxpayer dollars to kick our the owners so they can turn over the property to developers without renumeration. These Politicians have now done this twice, the first incident was the Cosmos boutique. My question is: why didn't the developer pay for either parcel? So far we have not received cent one from this developement. Usually when you have a large developement like this, the company wants to win favor with the community so they donate a Fire Truck or something else of value and then pays taxes on the property. Years back, a company called Parker Construction wanted to build an office building at Fletcher and Lewis St. The Mayor was Nick Corbiscello. He told them no deal unless they give the Town the property they own across the Street and make it a park. The Democratics screamed that the Mayor made some kind of deal. The property that was given to us is Constitution Park. Now, we are doing that but in reverse.
Keith Jensen December 23, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Main Street bailing out Wall Street. Is that what we are seeing here? We were promissed no borough monies would go towards this project, As Reported by the Bergen Record on April 15th, 2011 “Fort Lee is not obligated to any type of financial support for the project, Sokolich emphasized. No tax abatements or payments in lieu of taxes are included in the deal.” http://www.northjersey.com/news/119921159_Fort_Lee_approves_deal_for_development_of_Centuria_site.html
Keith Jensen December 27, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Stop spending our taxes for private gain. This property, soon to be acquired by the residents of Fort Lee is worth much more intact than erased. If a multi-million dollar project is built around it. The owner will then have a much more valuable property which he / she will make a decision on what to do with it. I would not be surprised if another retailer offered a deal that could not be refused and the rent (AND TAXABLE INCOME) tripled once the major project was done. Thank you PATCH for exposing this issue with your article. If it were not for you, I would not have known about this fleecing of the Fort Lee residents against the Mayor's words. To reiterate from my last post, "Fort Lee is not obligated to any type of financial support for the project, Sokolich emphasized." Quoted by Susan Mueller Fort Lee Suburbanite Editor and printed in The Bergen Record on April 15th, 2011. Op-ed from this article follows: http://fortlee.patch.com/articles/fort-lee-gop-starts-petition-to-stop-acquisition-of-main-street-property

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