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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 Fort Lee Redevelopment Associates (FLRA)’s site plan, also known as The Center at Fort Lee, for the East parcel of Redevelopment Area 5. , 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.”

The Borough of Fort Lee has a documents repository on its website for both FLRA and Tucker.

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Luca D. June 13, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Mark spends months campaigning on behalf of Tucker and Demotrakis, he makes sure he's hand picked every member of the Board that unanimously approved the project and now he's "guarded"? This is a man who encouraged the Council to change the name of the Martha Washington Way because the developer is "spending 1 billion dollars" in our town. If Mark was concerned about the interests of the town, he would be asking how much profit the developer is making at Fort Lee's expense, not how much he is spending.
William Mays June 14, 2012 at 01:57 AM
He just sees that this town can have a bright future. In a town where theres a memorial for everything, and streets are named after people who are unrelated to the town, we could use one less unrelated street name. While Park St doesn't sound that great, Park Lane would be nice. This development is going to be good for this down, which seems to be becoming more and more of a ghost town. Hudson Lights and The Center at Fort Lee could be the start of a revival of the joke of a downtown that Fort Lee has.
Jack B Goode June 14, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Fort Lee is a "ghost town?".The name of the street will be Park ing Lot once this monstrosity is built.
William Mays June 14, 2012 at 02:41 AM
I didn't say its a ghost town, I said it's becoming one. Whats wrong with this development tell me, besides the traffic and the school impact? The design seems to be fine.
Luca D. June 14, 2012 at 03:16 AM
"Besides the traffic and school impact", as if those two issues aren't enough? Why not build a development plan that is consistent with the master plan and would not overtax our resources, whether it be traffic, school or services? Instead of 900 units, how about 300 units. The answer is because the bank in which the mayor owns a half a million dollar interest will give out mortgages and loan millions of dollars; real estate brokers Ila and Joe Cervieri and the mayor's brother will make millions of dollars. When we try to complain to the Fort Lee Ethics Board, Councilman Joe Cervieri's brother, who sits on the Ethics Board, can tell us that nothing he is doing is unethical.
CD Cantelli June 14, 2012 at 03:20 AM
I thought I read an article on the Patch that this project will NET the Borough less than a million dollars (if everyone pays their taxes and dosen't default). That's obscene. That means it will cost millions to support.
William Mays June 14, 2012 at 03:28 AM
I hope you realize that most of the apartments there will be rentals. That means that Ila and Joe Cerveri won't make that much. Most people will rent through the leasing office.
Luca D. June 14, 2012 at 03:38 AM
Even rental property is owned by someone. The developer will not retain them.
William Mays June 14, 2012 at 03:50 AM
Actually, in a development like this, the developer will retain them. That way all of the renters go through a leasing office. Why would the developer sell them off anyway? They can rake in tons of money retaining them. Not to mention that there are many more realtors in Fort Lee than the two you mentioned.
Rona June 14, 2012 at 04:00 AM
I'm sick of discussing this any further. When money & powerful people get together they can dictate anything. This Includes the 2 phallic towers to the sky a grand testament to James Demetrakis. These towers have no reason to be so close to the G.W. Bridge in the first place. Hasn't anyone gotten stuck under the the apartments on the NY side of the bridge? That space should be open not a tunnel like choke that it is. How do these towers help us? Just an aside they will be the 3rd tallest buildings in NJ. The first is in Jersey City, the 2nd is the new Revel Casino in Atlantic City. Does a town like Fort Lee need 2 of these? In the meanwhile I have to get town approval to cut down a tree on my property. While property developers can easily blow by planning board needed approvals with the right attorneys clear cut anything and expand a structures footprint to the curb. Sorry to all for the rant. I've been a resident for 44 years, and can't take it any more!
Luca D. June 14, 2012 at 04:10 AM
May 16 Mayor says developer "not even half way there" and yet at the next meeting June 4 - the development gets approved. How is that possible?
One Hung Low June 14, 2012 at 04:38 AM
Fort Lee is not a ghost town. It has a lot of dummies living in town, but not ghosts. So maybe the correct term would be "dummy town".
Jack B Goode June 14, 2012 at 03:13 PM
more like "zombies" , that follow mindlessly whatever the Democrats put out..
Jack B Goode June 14, 2012 at 03:24 PM
To Billy Mays: you ask "what's wrong with this development?" The first requirement of an applicant is to prove that the development they propose is of benefit to the WHOLE TOWN. this applicant has not shown that ,but the Board let them take a pass, Please don't argue that there will be an increase in tax revenue. The burden on Borough Services.combined with the governing body's insatiable appetite to spend will diminish any gains quickly. Also has anyone factored in the disruption of traffic flow during construction?How about the increase of pedestrian traffic and the increase in crime that comes with an increased population and an expansion/establishment of large businesses that will attract crowds from all over and the negative impact that will have?
Luca D. June 15, 2012 at 01:17 AM
As long as the development helps the realtors, lawyers and banks in town, it's all good.
William Mays June 15, 2012 at 01:29 AM
Yes, because having the 3rd tallest buildings in NJ is a bad thing.
William Mays June 15, 2012 at 01:31 AM
Why do you keep saying that Luca? They aren't going to make that much money off it because most of the units are rentals and the ones that aren't, well there are plenty of realtors in town, no guarantee that Ila and Joe are the ones who'll get the sales.
William Mays June 15, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Jack, Fort Lee needs large businesses so that our small businesses can prosper. They aren't proposing a Wal-Mart, these shops will be beneficial for the surrounding area.
Jenna June 15, 2012 at 02:02 AM
I never heard of a project this big where the traffic guys say no increase in traffic and the peeps on the planning committee believed it? So what happens when it's built and everyone realizes they lied?
One Hung Low June 19, 2012 at 11:14 PM
If it helps my businesses in Fort Lee, I'm all for it.

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