The Record

by Hanna Adely

The Record’s former headquarters, a 19.7-acre property on River Street in Hackensack, is being sold to a well-known local developer who said he wants to build a high-end residential and retail community with more than 500 apartments and a hotel.

Fred Daibes, owner and CEO of the Edgewater-based Daibes Enterprises, is buying the property that includes the former Record flagship office at 150 River St., the New Heritage Diner and the New Jersey Naval Museum in a deal announced Monday by North Jersey Media Group, publisher of The Record.

“We have reached an agreement to sell the property to Mr. [Fred] Daibes,” Stephen Borg, president of North Jersey Media Group, said.

Daibes, who said he is partnering with James Demetrakis of Arilex Realty in Edgewater, declined to disclose the sale price or the potential cost of the development, but said the deal was not contingent on city approvals.

“We think it’s a good project and a good area to be developing in,” he said. “We see Hackensack as the next Edgewater.”

Daibes has built many residential and commercial properties across Bergen County, but he made his biggest mark in Edgewater, where he put up luxury high-rise apartment buildings at former industrial sites. He helped transform the waterfront area, making it part of the so-called “Hudson River Gold Coast.”

Demetrakis also is a Bergen County developer and partner with Daibes on the mixed-use Cliffside Park Town Centre project now under construction. He also is an attorney for the developer of a $1 billion downtown project in Fort Lee that will include two 47-story residential towers, which will be the tallest structures in Bergen County.

At the River Street site, Daibes envisions upscale high-rise apartment buildings along the Hackensack River, and midpriced apartments above stores facing the street. He also wants to put a hotel on the property.

Daibes said he intends to keep the Naval Museum, which includes the USS Ling submarine on the river. The diner may be relocated within any new development.

The area is zoned B-3, which allows for a wide range of uses including retail stores, multifamily dwellings, offices, movie theaters, restaurants, and publishing centers, said Al Borelli, the city’s zoning officer.

Daibes said plans were preliminary and that he couldn’t provide a timetable. City Manager Stephen Lo Iacono said Daibes could take advantage of the city’s pre-application process, which it started last year to allow developers to meet with officials to resolve questions and get guidance on their plans before they’re submitted.

Councilman John Labrosse, who will be sworn in as mayor July 1 when a new coalition takes over city government, said he looked forward to hearing details of plans and hoped such development would draw more people into Hackensack.

“I’m very happy there’s a buyer for the site,” he said. “It’s probably our most valuable piece of property and has the most potential for the city.”

Larry Ragonese, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said he did not know of any existing environmental problems on the old Record property. It was not listed as having contamination in records kept by the agency’s site remediation program.

“We’ve conducted due diligence with our environmental experts and the DEP, and there are no environmental issues that will prevent redevelopment,” said Jennifer Borg, vice president/general counsel for North Jersey Media Group.

City officials say they have seen strong interest from developers and investors recently, especially since adoption of the new Downtown Rehabilitation Plan a year ago. The River Street property isn’t within the 39-acre area outlined in the plan, but it is just blocks from Main Street and from the Bergen County Courthouse.

Jose Cruz, the senior managing director of HFF, a commercial real estate firm, said the area could benefit from numerous projects – multifamily housing, retail, new medical offices near Hackensack University Medical Center or a hotel.

Hackensack’s demographics and the site’s proximity to New York City make it attractive, he said.

“When you look at that site, it’s very well located, has easy access to the highways, it’s dense,” Cruz said. “You’ve got some great things happening in Hackensack, this would be one more to make things flourish. They’ve got the right developer, now it’s just figuring out the right balance of multiple property types.”

While Daibes has had success in real estate across swaths of Bergen County, he also ran into problems with state and federal regulators.

The DEP fined Daibes $1.9 million in 2011 for completing several projects at Le Jardin, his cliff-side French restaurant in Edgewater, without a permit. He allegedly removed mature trees and shrubs from a coastal bluff and covered an acre of river bottom with fill.

Those issues have been “largely resolved,” Daibes’ spokesman Alan Marcus said Monday.

In January 2012, Mariner’s Bank of Edgewater, which Daibes founded and of which he is majority owner, entered into a wide-ranging order with federal and state regulators that called on the bank to shed bad loans, tighten management oversight, and restrict lending to delinquent borrowers and bank insiders. Daibes, who resigned as chairman of Mariner’s in 2011, said he was not involved in day-to-day operations.

The bank’s CEO said in May that he is hopeful regulators will be satisfied with Mariner’s progress and lift the consent orders after its next examination later this year.

Last month, a Record story raised questions about three unsecured loans the bank gave to powerful county Democrats several years ago.

“We will continue to cover stories that are important to our readers,” Stephen Borg said. “There always has been, continues to be, and always will be a separation between the business side and editorial.”

North Jersey Media Group announced its departure from River Street in 2008 and closed the site three years later. “It was outdated and not conducive to a modern working environment,” Borg said.


June 25, 2013 News


by Hannan Adely

HACKENSACK- The start of construction at the Meridia Metro apartment building marks a turning point for the city as it ushers in an ambitious plan to overhaul its downtown, local leaders said at a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday.

The 222-unit building is the first such project in the city since officials adopted the Downtown Rehabilitation Plan a year ago to make it easier for developers to invest in the area. And it is among a trio of such major residential projects, including one freshly announced Thursday evening.

“Today is the first shovel in the ground, the brick-and-mortar proof that, yes, this rehabilitation plan is for real,” said City Manager Stephen Lo Iacono. “Yes, it’s moving forward.”

Meridia Metro Hackensack will feature 86 one-bedroom and 136 two-bedroom apartments on five floors over parking on State Street.

Catering to the “millennial” generation, the building will have modern amenities including a gym, an Xbox gaming center, a rooftop terrace with firepit, and a dog park with grooming station, said developer George Capodagli.

“I’m bringing in the $20-martini people — the rich and famous,” said Capodagli, calling it the generation that loves to spend. He later said monthly rents would range from $1,600 to $2,000.

The project will cost about $30 million, and construction is expected to conclude in January 2015, said Capodagli, owner of Capodagli Property Co. of Pequannock and its subsidiary, Meridia Metro Urban Renewal.

Capodagli said the building was planned to feel like a community: “This millennial group — they want to feel like they belong,” he said.

It’s up to the city to keep them there for the long haul, he said.

“They’ve got to feel safe in your streets, and they’ve got to feel welcome,” he said. “They feel like an outcast and they’re taking the train and going elsewhere.”

In March, the City Council designated part of State Street as an “area in need of redevelopment” and approved financial and parking incentives for the apartment building.

Meridia Metro Urban Renewal was granted a 30-year tax abatement. Annually for the first six years, the developer will pay either $1,200 per unit for a total of $266,400, or 2 percent of the total project cost, whichever is greater. The payment will increase incrementally over the remaining years of the agreement.

The city also agreed to lease 120 parking spaces at a nearby municipal parking garage for residents’ use at a cost of $64,800 annually for the first five years, with increases in subsequent years. Shared parking is one of incentives the city included in its Downtown Rehabilitation Plan to lure developers to build in a 39-block area known as the Main Street corridor.

The plan loosens zoning and parking restrictions and establishes an easier building-approval process. It also calls for infrastructure improvements and two-way traffic on Main Street.

The downtown is now home to a diverse but haphazard collection of stores and restaurants in low-rise buildings, with few residences. Many people travel there for work, but depart by evening. City leaders, however, say the downtown is poised to be a destination in Bergen County for people to live, work, shop and dine. They note that it’s home to the county seat, a university and a major medical center, and it has ample highway and bus access.

“Nobody in North Jersey can beat Hackensack’s location,” said Jerome Lombardo, chairman of the Upper Main Alliance business organization.

Meridia isn’t the only notable new housing debuting in Hackensack.

On Friday, officials cut the ribbon on the new Avalon Hackensack at Riverside on Friday, located farther north next to The Shops at Riverside shopping center. The two mid-rise buildings at Avalon include 226 apartments ranging from studios to three-bedroom homes, with amenities including an outdoor pool, grilling and picnic areas, resident lounge and fitness center.

And on Thursday evening 6/6, the Upper Main Alliance held a business expo where board member Eric Anderson announced a new Main Street project. He said his realty company, Alexander Anderson Real Estate Group, had worked with developers and sellers in assembling properties with plans to put up a full-service luxury residential building of more than 250,000 square feet. Anderson said plans would be submitted to the city this summer.

He declined to preliminarily disclose the location, but added “This is going to revolutionize Main Street; it’s a big, big project.”

City officials say the Meridia building will lead the way for more such developers and businesses to set up shop downtown and will draw foot traffic to help existing Main Street businesses.

Developers and investors are already expressing high interest in the area, said Lo Iacono, adding that he gets calls from them nearly every day.

North Jersey investor Billy Procida said Hackensack has a lot of offer, but languished for years as other urban areas such as Jersey City prospered with good planning. Now, he’s ready for Hackensack’s turn.

“We’re all over it and we want to invest in it,” said Procida, president of Englewood-based Procida Funding and Advisers. “I think Hackensack is one of the greatest opportunities” for investing.

City officials and planners have worked on downtown rehabilitation planning for years and are just now seeing it come to fruition.

But four of the five council members are not returning to office, and the incoming council has suggested it’ll replace some City Hall staff and contract professionals.

Still, the elected council members say they’re committed to continuing support for redevelopment downtown.

“We’re glad to see that there is some progress finally being made on the redevelopment of Main Street, and we hope this project is successful,” said Councilman John Labrosse, who is returning to office.

Members of the new council say they’ll ensure the process is open and transparent by making documents available online; analyzing financial impact on city services and appointing a commission to review redevelopment efforts citywide.

“We want to make sure everyone — regardless of whether they own one or two properties and regardless of political affiliation — is treated fairly,” said Councilwoman-elect Kathleen Canestrino.

City leaders say new housing ratables also will help lower the tax burden on other property owners.


June 7, 2013 News


by Myles Ma

HACKENSACK- For a long time, talk of revitalizing downtown Hackensack has been conceptual, defined by architectural renderings and studies.

That changed Thursday, as officials made their first physical progress toward making those visions a reality, breaking ground on a $19.2 million, 222-unit residential property on a State Street block that had been left mostly empty in recent years.

“This demonstrates that this whole rehabilitation project is moving,” Stephen Lo Iacono, Hackensack City Manager, said. “It’s the first step. it’s going to be the first of many.”

The Meridia State complex is expected to be complete in about 18 months. At that point, it will include five stories of one and two-bedroom apartments, as well as a ground floor garage with 141 parking spots.

The developer, Meridia Metro Urban Renewal, a subsidiary of Capodagli Property Company, agreed to move forward with the project after the city council adopted a payment in lieu of taxes program for the project.

Under the PILOT agreement, Hackensack will receive $1,200 per unit for a total of about $266,400 a year, or 2 percent of the total cost of the project, depending on which is greater. The city currently collects $80,000 a year in taxes from the site.

Capodagli Property owner George Capodagli said the Meridia building would attract young, eager-to-spend millenials.

“I’m bringing the $20 martini people,” the audacious, bleach-blond developer said in a thick Brooklyn accent. “The rich and the famous.”

But whether they stay depends on how safe and welcome they feel in Hackensack, Capodagli said.

“These kids are coming from dormitories and suburban homes to cities,” he said. “They may act macho and look macho, but guess what? They’re not macho. They’re more mucho than macho. So you’ve got to make them feel safe.”

Lo Iacono said Hackensack already was a safe city.

“Crime really is not a major problem here and we’re going to be doing even better than we’ve been doing as this thing develops,” he said.

City officials hope the Meridia project is only the first step in a larger effort to revive downtown Hackensack. The city has eased building requirements to speed Main Street development.

Capodagli credited city officials for moving the Meridia project so quickly through the approval process.

“These people jumped through every hoop that needed to be jumped through,” he said.

Lo Iacono cited overly strict building regulations, particularly parking requirements, as among the chief reasons for Main Street’s decline. And like many Bergen County downtowns, the rise of big box stores and shopping malls in the 1960s and 70s hurt Hackensack’s Main Street.

But while there have been many plans over the years to rehabilitate downtown Hackensack, business owners and the city government haven’t aligned as they have now, Councilman John Labrosse said.

“It never had the full effort of the city, the businesses and the elected officials,” he said. “Now it’s a joint venture, and that’s what’s made the difference.”

With the Meridia project underway, Lo Iacono said there are four more developments in the pipeline for Main Street. He couldn’t reveal any details, but said they are all mixed-use, with retail or office space on the ground floor and residential units above.

It’s not clear whether Lo Iacono will be able to see those projects through. The last election brought a complete turnover to the city council, aside from LaBrosse, and the newcomers haven’t indicated whether Lo Iacono will stay on.

“I have no idea,” he said. “I wish I knew.”


June 7, 2013 News