by Hanan Adely
City leaders who have rallied in recent years for downtown rehabilitation are seeing the first fruits of their efforts with plans for a proposed five-story, 222-unit building on State Street.
The apartment building, called Meridia State, would draw people to the downtown, boost local business, and help usher in a wider downtown revival, officials and business leaders said.
“This is a very, very significant move for the city and we think once this project gets under way, it will probably be the catalyst we need,” City Mananger Stephen Lo Iacono said.
Capodagli Property Co. of Pequannock has proposed building the apartments under its Meridia brand, marketed as modern and luxury living at affordable prices. The City Council paved the way for the project last month when it approved a redevelopment plan for a portion of State Street between Warren and Bergen streets to allow mixed-use development with up to 230 residential units.
The council will consider two more ordinances, to be introduced tonight, to designate Meridia Metro as the redeveloper and to approve a payment in lieu of taxes agreement.
The Pompton Plains developer has been in talks with the city about the project for several months and has purchased all the properties in the State Street redevelopment area. All but one of the structures, a drive-through bank branch, has been demolished.
Developer George Capodagli was out of town and unavailable for comment for this story. A project manager did not respond to emails.
The building would feature 86 one-bedroom units and 136 two-bedroom units. The developer could appear before the city Planning Board as early as April, Lo Iacono said.
The developer has Meridia residences in Rahway and Wallington. Another is being built in West New York and one was proposed for Bound Brook.
Meridia’s website and brochure highlights perks such as Wi-Fi, onsite storage, outdoor terraces and gathering lounges on each floor. They’re also marketed as green buildings that are close to public transportation.
Meridia would be the first project since the city adopted its Downtown Rehabilitation Plan in June, which eased zoning, parking and other restrictions in a 39-block area known as the Main Street corridor to make it easier for developers to build downtown.
Company representatives met last week with city officials to resolve early questions in its application. The pre-application meeting is a new tool the city is using to speed up the review process and make it easier and less expensive.
Councilwoman Karen Sasso, a member of the Pre-Application Review Committee, said the Meridia project fit the city’s vision of a modern downtown where people can live, work, shop and find entertainment.
“I think this particular builder — his target audience is young professionals and that certainly will bring some vibrancy to the area,” she added.
That was echoed by Jerome Lombardo, CEO of a commercial real estate firm in the city and chairman of the Upper Main Alliance, a Hackensack business association. He believes the city has appeal as home to the county seat and a large regional hospital; because of public transportation and highway access; and because of the quicker, easier applications process.
He hoped the new residences would invigorate downtown business, drawing more customers and attracting shops and restaurants.
“The business district downtown is glad to see a project of this magnitude,” he said.
Lo Iacono said developers have been calling and meeting to ask about building opportunities in the city’s downtown. He said talks with Capodagli began after a developers’ breakfast in September that showcased the city’s rehabilitation efforts.
More promotion for the city is under way. On Friday, a panel representing the city spoke about the city’s revitalization model at the annual New Jersey Future Redevelopment Forum. The same panel will present at the quarterly meeting of the New Jersey Real Estate Lenders Association on March 21 in Hackensack.
“Once the spade is in the ground on this first project,” Lo Iacono said, “I think there’ll be even more momentum building toward development.”
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