Redevelopment Area 5 Begins Final Approval Process

Planning Board and public express concerns over parking.

After remaining an empty eyesore for over four decades, the property known as Redevelopment Area 5, a 17-acre property near the George Washington Bridge, could be nearing final approval on the eastern parcel.

The Fort Lee Planning Board hosted the first of two meetings on Monday, Feb. 6, at the for residents who filled the room to near capacity.

The meeting, a preliminary and final major site plan and subdivision for the eastern parcel of Redevelopment Area 5, allowed James Demetrakis, the attorney representing the developer of the eastern parcel, Fort Lee Redevelopment Associates (FLRA), the opportunity to qualify members of the architectural firm Elkus Manfredi Architects before board members and the public questioned details regarding the site.

For Demetrakis, Redevelopment 5 brings his career as an attorney and a developer full circle.

"This is a very interesting night for me because I stood before a board in Fort Lee 40 years ago on the exact same type of application, which was the Helmsley tract,” said Demetrakis. “At that time the board granted approval of the site, and 40 years later, I’m back doing it over again.”

The FLRA application is primarily residential and includes two 47-story towers that will house a total of 902 units, some of which will feature dramatic views of the iconic George Washington Bridge, the Palisades and the Hudson River.

Each tower will feature a five-story, wrap-around parking garage with 630 parking spaces for the north tower and 589 for the south tower. The eastern parcel will also feature a landscaped, 1.7 acre public park designed with pedestrian walkways, a pond and a walkover bridge, and a refreshment kiosk, all of which will be donated to the borough.

FLRA is also donating a movie theater and a museum to honor the borough’s Revolutionary War and pre-Hollywood history.

A high-end, 7,000-square-foot restaurant, which is expected to be a major attraction of the east parcel, is also being constructed for a private entity.   

Howard Elkus of Elkus Manfredi Architects described the inspiration behind the design for the eastern parcel as the creation of a significant open space.

“No one could be asked or given such responsibility without recognizing the iconic nature of this site,” said Elkus, adding, “Anything less than a brilliant design would be a tragedy. This is a great site. How it stood fallow for 40 years stuns me.”

Elkus said the site should inevitability become a “symbolic portal” to Fort Lee that residents and visitors can enjoy. He also described the east parcel, along with the western parcel, which is being developed by Tucker Development, as major catalysts for the borough’s main business district.

The borough is currently finalizing the redevelopment agreement for the west parcel.

After describing the building materials for the towers, including the low-reflective glass that will be used in their construction, Planning Board Chairman Herbert Greenberg requested a sample for inspection. He expressed concern over the potential glare on surrounding properties.

Several board members, including Janet Cooney, were also concerned with the number of parking spaces inside the parking garages, which will be dedicated to the restaurant, kiosk and theater.

According to Elkus, 24 parking spaces will be dedicated to the restaurant, three for the kiosk and 35 spaces for the theater.   

Fort Lee Councilman Armand Pohan was especially concerned with the number of seats inside the restaurant’s ground floor and the addition of outdoor seating on the second floor.

“I’m not sure that when the governing body approved this redevelopment plan that the second floor of this space would be an open space where dining was going on,” he said.

Pohan was also concerned with the potential adverse effects of lighting and noise from the restaurant on residents living nearby.

“I have a concern as to how much more additional parking will be generated,” Pohan said. “I’d like to know the number of tables.”

Demetrakis said the lighting and exact number of seats would be addressed at the next meeting.

During the public comment portion, Fort Lee resident Alex Floratos, a board member of the Fort Lee United Homeowners Association, asked Demetrakis if parking for employees of the residential towers, the movie theater, the museum and the restaurant were taken into consideration.

"A restaurant of this size will probably have in the neighborhood of 40 or 50 employees,” said Floratos.

Demetrakis said while a number of employees will commute in vehicles, most will use public transportation.

“Employees that are in the building maintenance business traditionally use pubic transportation,” Demetrakis explained, adding that most restaurant employees also use public transportation.

“Many will come from New Jersey, and some will come from New York," he said. "Gas is expensive; tolls are expensive. We have sufficient parking to accommodate employees.”

Details regarding traffic studies, the restaurant and the potential impact new residents of the towers could have on Fort Lee schools will be addressed at the next meeting scheduled for Feb. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Fort Lee Community Center on the second floor.

Keith Jensen February 07, 2012 at 11:46 PM
Seeing this property go up will be great, so long as it is implemented in a manner where all aspects are covered. If you attended the Board of Education meeting and noticed the poor preparation for the search firm, you would have been amazed when attending this meeting. This property will be the largest undertaking of any standing member of this board during their life in Fort Lee. With that only 5 of two dozen members asked questions of the architect and lawyer. Councilman Pohan beat a dead horse over and over about where the valet parking would pick up for a restaurant. While he brought up other items, this was his big concern. No one brought up how we will solve the parking situation for the rest of Main Street as we will lose two major parking lots across from Bank of America and inNapoli. Those spots, the builders lawyer mentioned were donated to the town. I'd like to learn more about that, nevertheless, the businesses have become reliant on those spots. This would lead you to think, since the largest issue brought up was parking, why wasn't the Parking Authority speaking up at all? In fact, Kay Nest left the meeting early because she told me she was hungry. Parking is the 800lb gorilla that could add to the cost of this project, if the Mayor and Council hold their ground. Additionally, I asked if they could create a school within the footprint or donate a new one as other builders do. When asked how many students this property would create: the answer was 81.
William Mays February 08, 2012 at 03:28 AM
Who the hell goes to Napoli anyway, that place has got to be one of the crappiest Italian restaurants I've been to. Bank of America is a big company, they'll think of a solution.
Jack B Goode February 08, 2012 at 03:30 AM
2- 47 story Towers..That number exceeds the Borough's own guidelines. How is this supposed to fit in to suburban Fort Lee 's landscape. Doesn't anyone out there think that this project will overwhelm this Borough? I' m glad our elected officials are on top of things like valet parking and number of seats in a restaurant. What about the increase in population and traffic? I thought Democrats were supposed to be the party of the people,the "little guy".Looks like the Fort Lee Dems are helping Big Business. Doesnt anyone see that?
William Mays February 08, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Actually, I think the 47 story towers would be good for Fort Lee, they could probably be seen as a landmark of Fort Lee.
Barry Levine February 09, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Obviously, the fact that it's SRO at In Napoli every day has escaped Mr. Mays.
William Mays February 09, 2012 at 08:53 PM
I'm talking about the food, not the bar.
Barry Levine February 09, 2012 at 09:19 PM
I think their gravy, sauce to the uninformed, is terrific.
William Mays February 09, 2012 at 09:46 PM
I don't know about their gravy, but their pasta sucks. Franco's is much better, and it can't even compete with a place like Fontana di Trevi in Leonia.
jimmy February 13, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Billy mays, the mayor and council are very fond of in napoli, and can often be found enjoying cocktails there ...as for area 5 i would suggest that the mayor and council just step aside and get out of the way, put fort lee's interests ahead of any personal graft that might be tempting to them and just let demetrakis run the show ..then it might actual develop !!
Anonymous February 21, 2012 at 06:58 PM
My only concern is about the schools. There's already overcrowding in our schools. Hopefully, this problem will be resolved quickly...
Joe February 28, 2013 at 10:58 PM
The idea got rejected 40 years ago becuase film companies wanted the site to make movies. Good companies had there eye on that site and you want to ruin it by building a gap and a JC Penny. If you really wanted to create jobs, you would bring in some good companies to buy that land but you decided to hurt the local economy by competing with them. Throw the Mayor out of office, im not voting for him again.
William Mays February 28, 2013 at 11:21 PM
Who said anything about a JCPenney or a Gap? Also, please show me one movie that was filmed there in the last 40 years. Also, maybe you should read the dates on an article before posting in them.
Joe February 28, 2013 at 11:30 PM
Yeah who said this Mayor we have is really a democrat, if hes after the local businesses. He fooled you on the ticket, he's a conservative through and though and should be ashamed to call himself a democrat!
William Mays March 01, 2013 at 01:43 AM
Whats conservative about reviving our downtown area? Still waiting on that movie by the way.
Joe March 01, 2013 at 05:55 PM
Oh you want to "revitialize" the area right? Why because it looks ugly? Then put up a few trees don't destroy our economy by promoting competition amoung the towns. We already have limo company's., rental car companies, hotels, what we need is some high paying jobs that will support these local companies so they can hire more people from this area. And who knows if we bring a good company chances are they will employ someone from fort lee, we have a very educated workforce, educated enough to know that we are being swindled.
William Mays March 02, 2013 at 01:40 AM
Fort Lee has like 5 hotels. Only one of them is decent. I don't think that a town is successful when it has limo companies and rental car companies. You do realize that office towers are being put up at the site right?
William Mays March 02, 2013 at 05:32 AM
Oh, I realize it now, you are from another town. Whats wrong with competition between towns? Why can Englewood have a nice downtown, and Fort Lee has to be stuck with banks and nail salons?


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