By Katie Eder
After months of planning and efforts to gain public approval, the Hackensack City Council passed Wednesday a Main Street Rehabilitation Plan to spur economic development and infrastructure improvements along the city’s 39-block Main Street corridor.
“There’s an awful lot of elation now that the plan has been approved, but this is not something that will happen overnight,” said Stephen Lo Iacono, Hackensack’s city manager. “The biggest thing we have to do now is reach out to the development community to make developers (aware) of what’s going on. We need to get the message out there that we’re a much more developer-friendly community than we have been in the past.”
Lo Iacono said four developers in the region already have contacted the city for more information on the projects, which involve bringing new businesses and residences into vacant space and improving roadways, sidewalks and storefronts.
“I don’t think we’ll make any efforts to reach out nationwide, because we have a wealth of developers in this area, and some located here in Hackensack fit the bill to do this development,” Lo Iacono said. “A local developer may be more appropriate, because we’re not looking to change the identity or integrity of the city. We still want to be recognizable as Hackensack.”
While Lo Iacono said a “good part of the zoning regulation problems with design standards” that had halted development projects in the past have been streamlined in the plan, he said procedural issues with the permitting process could still block developers from getting on board with rehabilitation efforts.
“Currently, a developer who wants to do substantial development has to spend an awful lot of money in order to make an application and to get in front of the zoning board. Developers often did all that and then were denied, and that has a chilling effect on someone coming in and wanting to do a project,” Lo Iacono said. “It’s hard for someone to have spent a ton of money and then not see something from it. We’re now in the process of trying to change those requirements to make it easier for developers to get in front of the board and present a concept.”
In a statement, city planner Francis Reiner said before the plan was enacted, a statewide “movement towards mixed-use urban environments … (wasn’t) feasible in Hackensack.”
“Hackensack is now well positioned to capitalize on the movements that revitalized Morristown, Hoboken, and other similar urban areas into thriving metropolises,” Reiner said. “With its access to mass transit, major thoroughfares and employers like Bergen County and the Hackensack University Medical Center, I think we will see real progress on Main Street that will benefit the entire city.”
By S.P. Sullivan
HACKENSACK — The city council approved an ambitious rehabilitation plan Wednesday evening that city officials say will streamline development downtown.
“After a lengthy public approval process and many long days working to put together a plan that best positions Hackensack to thrive, I am confident that we will now start to see progress in revitalizing our downtown with new residential, dining, and commercial options,” Mayor Jorge Meneses said in a statement following the vote.
The vote put into place significant changes to the city’s zoning procedures, including specific guidelines for the materials and uses the zoning board will green light.
In an interview with NJ.com in May, Francis Reiner of the Hasbrouck Heights-based DMR Architects, which drafted the plan, outlined the changes. He said the plan’s main focus was shifting the citi’s ordinances from single-use zoning toward multi-use, allowing residences to exist above first-floor businesses.
“We have to change the tools and the mechanisms to allow that kind of development to occur,” Reiner said. “This plan does that.”
A new era in Hackensack will attract investment, development, and economic activity
HACKENSACK, NEW JERSEY – Today, the Hackensack City Council has passed an historic Main Street Rehabilitation Plan that will attract new development, investment, and economic activity on the Main Street Corridor. Spanning 163 acres, 39 city blocks, and 389 properties, the plan will promote mixed-use development with active streets, outdoor dining, and new development opportunities.
“After a lengthy public approval process and many long days working to put together a plan that best positions Hackensack to thrive, I am confident that we will now start to see progress in revitalizing our downtown with new residential, dining, and commercial options,” stated Hackensack Mayor Jorge Meneses. “Our city government will now put on a full court press to bring in developers who share our vision and want to invest in our community.”
“This plan will ensure that our City is prepared to work with current and potential stake-holders to create the kind of vibrant community where people want to live, work and visit,” said Councilwoman Karen Sasso. “As American’s thoughts on the ideal community evolve, this plan will help make sure that Hackensack is prepared to become a more walkable, sustainable and livable City.”
The plan will create new design standards and offer developers a streamlined process that breaks down barriers that stalled projects in the past. It will reestablish Hackensack as the cultural, social, and economic heart of Bergen County and strengthen businesses as they see new customers dining, shopping, and living on Main Street.
“It was important to everyone involved in this process that we take a long-term comprehensive approach on how to best jumpstart development on Main Street,” stated Hackensack City Manager Stephen Lo Iacono. “This plan accomplishes that and so much more. By bringing together business owners, city officials, and professional urban planners we developed an exciting plan that lays the groundwork for the next decade of development in Hackensack.”
This wide-ranging approach incorporates new zoning, architectural and neighborhood design standards, an improved permit process, and implementation strategies. It allows flexibility for current business and property owners that will allow for growth and expansion in Hackensack and will build upon an already thriving dining scene in the city.
“Across New Jersey and the nation you are seeing a movement towards mixed-use urban environments that, before this plan was enacted, weren’t feasible in Hackensack,” stated Senior Urban Designer for Hackensack Francis Reiner. “Hackensack is now well-positioned to capitalize on the movements that revitalized Morristown, Hoboken, and other similar urban areas into thriving metropolises. With its access to mass transit, major thoroughfares, and employers like Bergen County and the Hackensack University Medical Center, I think we will see real progress on Main Street that will benefit the entire city.”
CONTACT: MATTHEW P. JORDAN, (973) 714-6115
HACKENSACK, NEW JERSEY – Tomorrow, the Hackensack City Council will conduct its final meeting before the passage of its historic plan to revitalize the Main Street Corridor. Please join us for this important night for the future of Hackensack’s downtown:
WHO: HACKENSACK CITY COUNCIL MEETING
WHAT: FINAL MEETING AND VOTE FOR REHABILITATION PLAN
WHERE: HACKENSACK CITY HALL
WHEN: WEDNESDAY, JUNE 27, 2012, 8:00 PM
CONTACT: MATTHEW P. JORDAN, (973) 714-6115
BY ABBOTT KOLOFF
HACKENSACK — Business owners talked Thursday evening about a revitalized downtown lined with five-story residential buildings, a two-way Main Street and more outdoor eating if the City Council approves a proposed zoning change later this month.
The third annual Upper Main Alliance business expo drew almost 200 people to the Bergen Community College building on Main Street, where Jerry Lombardo, the organization’s chairman, unveiled posters with some of the leading proposals for revitalizing the city’s downtown.
The council is expected to vote on June 27 on zoning changes that would make the proposals possible.
Lombardo told the crowd that he envisions a day when there will be “several thousand units of housing” in the Main Street area. “Tonight, my heart is racing,” he said.
The Planning Board last month recommended making zoning changes to allow residential buildings with ground-floor retail and office space on Main Street, an area where residential buildings are largely barred under the city’s current zoning code.
The proposed zoning would allow five-story buildings along Main Street and 14-story buildings for some large-scale projects, said Francis Reiner of DMR, a Hasbrouck Heights-based redevelopment consultant hired by the city. He said 14-story buildings already are allowed in the area but developers won’t build them, or much of anything else, because of parking requirements and restrictions on residential buildings.
Mixed-use zoning, allowing residential buildings with first-floor retail, has been the blueprint for redevelopment of other downtowns, he said. The new rules also would reduce the number of parking spaces that businesses are required to provide.
The master plan was amended in 2006 to allow the area’s zoning to be changed, Reiner said. Last year, the city designated a 163-acre, 39 block area along the Main Street corridor as an area in need of rehabilitation.
Thursday’s exposition included dozens of booths manned by local business owners, a Hackensack police officer on a Segway to promote new downtown patrols, an acoustic band and cheerleaders who did back flips.
Corrado Belgiovine, of the Alexander Anderson Real Estate Group, said the zoning changes would create an atmosphere similar to Hoboken, Jersey City and Englewood. “It can happen here,” he said.
Lucy Wildrick, of Street-Works Development in White Plains, N.Y., said her company is interested in building in the area but told city officials that zoning changes would be needed. She said she also would press for Main Street to be converted from one-way to two ways to make it easier for people to get around.
“We believe that’s important,” she said. “Two ways makes it more user friendly.”
She said she envisions Main Street being developed in sections, with office buildings near the Superior Court building that include some apartments, and more residential buildings farther north.
Reiner said the city would create a technical review committee, as many other towns have done, to discuss ideas with developers before they apply for permits.
By Jerry Lombardo, Upper Main Street Alliance
The plan for revitalization of Hackensack’s Main Street corridor can be expected to spur investment and new development opportunities in our downtown, while creating new taxable properties. New residential, dining and retail options with active public plazas and sidewalks also can be expected.
By updating our zoning, new, 21st-century, mixed-use development would create an urban atmosphere that we see in places like Morristown, Hoboken and Ridgewood. The procedure for approval to build would be streamlined so developers contemplating investing in Hackensack would not be deterred by an archaic permit-approval process.
This plan changes how we do business.
As chairman of the Upper Main Alliance, I know firsthand how important it is for our city government to be on the same page as business and property owners. I hope everyone will embrace what the rehabilitation plan is trying to accomplish: attract new residents, new customers and economic development to Hackensack. Everyone has something to gain from a revitalized downtown.