The Hackensack City Council unanimously approved the adoption of a new downtown development plan designed to spur the economic growth of the city’s Main Street corridor at the June 27 council meeting.

The redevelopment effort includes zoning changes to encourage economic and residential growth in the city’s downtown and restore its former commercial strength. The rehabilitation plan designates 163 acres, 39 city blocks and 389 properties consisting of Main Street and the surrounding area, remembered as a commercial and entertainment Mecca in the 1940s and 50s. The proposal incorporates a mix of new housing and businesses along with open space. Enhanced infrastructure, including improved roads and sidewalks, are also part of the plan.

Planner Francis Reiner of DMR Architects noted the benefits of the plan’s new zoning proposals.

“The zoning in this plan is intended to promote mixed-use development, active streets with two-sided retail, outdoor dining and a more pedestrian-friendly urban environment,” he said. “The new zoning also supports existing property owners, existing businesses, the rehabilitation of those businesses and new development opportunities in the downtown area.”

Jerry Lombardo, chairman of the city’s Upper Main Street Alliance, looked ahead to how the area designated for redevelopment, bounded approximately by the Bergen County Courthouse to the south, the Sears department store to the north, State Street to the west and River Street to the east, will be changed for the better when the plan is executed.

“We’re not reinventing the wheel — the wheel is already there, and we have to get it rolling in Hackensack,” Lombardo said. “We have confidence in the plan. It does not contemplate any use of eminent domain or the taking of anyone’s property. Rather, it seeks through the power of the market to rebuild our downtown.”

City Manager Stephen Lo Iacono noted that he believed the success of the plan, to be implemented over the next ten to 12 years by the public-private partnership established between the city and the alliance, would not be jeopardized by the ongoing legal cost of police-related lawsuits.

“There is no question that there is going to be increased tax ratables once this plan is rolling along,” Lo Iacono said. “This plan will help us to underwrite all the costs of running the city in the long term. The legal situation is a serious situation, but a short-term one.”

Albert Dib, executive director of the Upper Main Street Alliance, felt that the approval of the plan could make history in Hackensack.

“I think this is the most important thing to happen in Hackensack in my lifetime,” said Dib, 40. “This plan solidifies Hackensack’s place as Bergen County’s center for commerce and culture. There are no other municipalities in Bergen County that can offer what we’re about to offer.”


July 6, 2012 News



HACKENSACK – Residents, business owners, and developers now have a website to monitor the progress being made on Main Street in Hackensack.

The site was launched this week, said Matthew Jordan, a spokesman for the city.

“The website gives people easy access to the recently passed Rehabilitation Plan and interactive graphics for what projects will look like, where the plan is being implemented, and design standards moving forward,” Jordan said.

The Rehabilitation Plan will allow for the city to reach out to private sector businesses as potential partners, said City Manager Stephen Iacono in a prepared statement.

“Throughout this entire process transparency has been a hallmark. We want everyone to know – from residents to property owners to prospective investors – that Hackensack is open for business.”

Mayor Michael Melfi also released a statement on the site:

“This website is the beginning of a marketing and outreach campaign to bring new investment into Main Street.”


July 5, 2012 News


Will serve as a hub of information for developers, residents, and property owners

(HACKENSACK, NJ) – Today, the City of Hackensack launched a new website – – to market the city’s downtown to potential investors, provide important information to developers, and keep residents informed about the progress and plans for the Main Street Corridor. The website gives people easy access to the recently passed Rehabilitation Plan and interactive graphics for what projects will look like, where the plan is being implemented, and design standards moving forward.

“With the Rehabilitation Plan now in place with strong community support, we are going to be aggressive in reaching out to partners in the private sector that can help us transform Main Street,” stated City Manager Stephen Lo Iacono.

“Throughout this entire process transparency has been a hallmark. We want everyone to know – from residents to property owners to prospective investors – that Hackensack is open for business.”

The Main Street Rehabilitation Plan received unanimous support from the Hackensack City Council and Planning Board and strong endorsements from the business community. 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.

“This website is the beginning of a marketing and outreach campaign to bring new investment into Main Street,” stated Mayor Michael Melfi. “This Rehabilitation Plan is the first step in attracting new mixed-use residential and commercial projects that will expand our tax base and revitalize our downtown. We are going to seek out partners who share our vision and want to reestablish Hackensack as the center of Bergen County.”


July 3, 2012 Press Release



HACKENSACK — Developers are already showing interest in a recently adopted city plan designed to spark a downtown building boom and return the city to its heyday as Bergen County’s retail and cultural center, city officials said Friday.

Three developers have met with city officials in the past eight weeks to discuss tentative ideas, City Manager Stephen Lo Iacono said. Several others have made telephone inquiries about opportunities created by the city’s downtown revitalization plan, which eased zoning, parking and other restrictions in a 39 city block-area known as the city’s Main Street corridor.

“We’re delivering the message that we’re very receptive to developing,” Lo Iacono said. “We’re open for business.”

City officials would not reveal the names of the interested developers, and those Lo Iacono contacted for this story declined to talk with a reporter for fear of exposing their plans to competitors, he said.

But all of them want to build the type of mixed-use residential and commercial projects the city — like many communities with blighted urban areas — are trying to attract, said Francis Reiner, a planner with DMR Architects in Hasbrouck Heights who is a consultant on the project.

“This really brings Hackensack to the attention of all those types of developers that have previously been going to other communities,” he said.

Reimer and others who worked on the project said the city already has several characteristics that would draw developers, including dozens of preserved historical buildings of various architectural styles, government buildings, a major hospital and easy access to highways and public transportation.

But previous urban renewal projects have been hampered by antiquated zoning, designed at a time when Americans were abandoning downtown areas for the suburbs and wanted separation between retail areas and residential neighborhoods.

The 63-page Downtown Rehabilitation Plan attempts to bring requirements for new developers into line with the contemporary taste for downtown areas where people can live, work, shop and find entertainment, mainly by removing restrictions on residential developments with ground floor retail and office space.

The proposal envisions buildings as high as 14 stories, side-walk restaurants and carefully maintained storefronts – which would adhere to a series of aesthetic requirements.

Those changes will be followed by a study on how to improve parking in the city, an attempt to secure the $3 million in financing needed to start the first of three phases to repair the city’s antiquated sewer system, and a streamlined approval process meant to allow developers to reduce up-front expenses.

The parking study, considered a crucial step in the process, is due this week, Lo Iacono said. City officials are also considering a suggestion in the plan to convert one-way streets in the designated area — including Main Street and State Street — to two-way, which is thought to be more attractive to shoppers and businesses.

Several commercial developers asked to weigh in on the plan Wednesday said they have been watching it with interest, but they were still skeptical.

“In theory, it’s a great thing for Hackensack,” said Thomas Reilly, managing director of the real estate services company Jones Lang LaSalle in Parsippany. “But will the economy allow it to happen?”

He said the city may need to provide tax breaks and other incentives to jump-start development, measures Lo Iacono said city officials will consider for the right project.

Jon Hansen, chairman of The Hampshire Cos., a Morristown-based real estate investment company, said the parking changes will be crucial.

“Without the parking, there will always be a high percentage of vacancy,” he said. “If you attract the residential and provide parking, the retail community will revitalize.”

David Sanzari, who said his family-owned company, Alfred Sanzari enterprises, owns more than $60 million worth of property in downtown Hackensack, said he has no doubt the plan will work.

“The hardest thing is to get these things started, who goes first,” he said. “Once that happens, developers will come in, property values will skyrocket and we will be well on our way.”


July 2, 2012 News