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.
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