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BY JENNIFER VAZQUEZ
NEWS EDITOR
HACKENSACK CHRONICLE

HACKENSACK — The rehabilitation of Hackensack’s downtown district will span a larger area after the city moved to include additional lots on State Street in the rehabilitation plans at the Nov. 20 council meeting.

The approval came after last month’s planning board meeting where a public hearing was held in connection with a preliminary investigation to determine whether certain lots on State Street, as well as one located on Warren Street, constitute an area in need of rehabilitation under the newly approved Hackensack Downtown Rehabilitation Plan.

“The [new lots will now be included] within the Main Street rehabilitation program,” Hackensack City Manager Stephen Lo Iacono said. “It’s a site on State Street which the planning board has designated, and the council has approved a designation for, as an area in need of redevelopment.”

The lots in question are located at addresses: 76, 86, 92 and 94 State St. as well as 31 Warren St, according to Lo Iacono.

Though the planning board carried out the initial investigation as to whether it should be included in the city’s redevelopment, and the council approved the designation, the following step is, once again, in the planning board’s court.

“The council sent to the planning board a draft of the redevelopment plan for that area and the planning board will be acting on that at their next meeting [in December],” Lo Iacono said.

City Planner Francis Reiner of the firm DMR Architects further explains the process.

“There are statutory requirements in order to meet the designation of an area in need of rehabilitation, which the [approximate] 160 acres of the downtown met that criteria,” he said. “We went through that process. Once that area is designated, we changed the zoning in the area of the downtown to allow for pedestrian friendly, mixed used development to occur anywhere in the downtown — commercial, residential, retail, office…essentially a property can be redeveloped at any point now, within the rehabilitation plan, so long it meets the criteria that was adopted in that plan.”

According to the Downtown Rehabilitation Plan the criteria for the rehabilitation of a particular site is met when “a majority of the storm water and sanitary sewer infrastructure in the delineated area is at least 50 years old and is in need of repair or substantial maintenance.”

Main Street is the substantial part of the Hackensack’s downtown district. The 63-page plan was proposed, and subsequently passed in June, with hopes of revitalizing the area thus bringing in more revenue into the city.

According to a press release from the City of Hackensack, the rehabilitation plan will include “new housing, retail and restaurant options that maximize [the city’s] strategic advantages in the region.” Furthermore, one of the main expectations for this plan is “to create a new economic engine for Hackensack, bringing new value to current business and property owners and [attracting] new businesses and residential options…[the plan positions Hackensack] to see new investment in projects that will create jobs, increase [its] tax base and strengthen existing business.”

An important component of the approved plan also makes a point of establishing “a balance between pedestrian and vehicular transportation, as well as an element protecting existing historical sites,” according to the city.

The rehabilitation will ease certain restrictions — such as zoning and parking — in an area equivalent to 39 blocks. This area is known as the city’s Main Street Corridor.

However, Reiner said the main process behind the plan is quite simple, since “the city is going to look to make public infrastructure improvements — storm, water, sewers, etc. — [and] change the zoning, allowing developers to take advantage of appropriate zoning in urban areas. The city believes that, that is going to spur private development to revitalize the downtown.”

Reiner said that the plan is already coming into fruition.

“[The city has] a developer that is looking at a 200-unit project,” he said. “The city has met with numerous other developers on other available properties in the downtown and so we think that over the next six to eight months, we’ll have announcements on a number of projects.”

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December 7, 2012 News

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NJ.com
By Myles Ma

HACKENSACK — Local developers got a glimpse of a plan to rehabilitate Main Street Monday, and they gave the project high marks.

“It’s everything you want to hear,” William Procida, president of Procida Funding and Advisors, said. “Municipal cooperation, good design, and everybody’s on board.”

Developers gathered at the Stony Hill Inn heard a plan to clear up the application process, ease parking requirements and improve circulation by allowing two-way traffic on Main Street.

The city will lower the number of parking spaces developers need when they plan sites. For example, a 10,000 square foot retail space that would require 280 spaces under current ordinances would only require 165 under the new zoning.

The difference would save more than $2 million, Doug Doyle, an attorney with DeCotiis, FitzPatrick and Cole, said. The law firm helped Hackensack develop the rehabilitation plan.

Hackensack will help guide developers through the application process. Before appearing before the planning board, developers can sit with a committee made up of City Manager Stephen Lo Iacono and other land-use officials.

The technical review committee will advise developers on what obstacles they might expect in front of the planning board.

“Before you spend a lot of money to get told no, you get those roadblocks out of the way,” Lo Iacono said.

The biggest change for residents might be a change in traffic patterns in the Main Street area.

Traffic studies showed that a two-way Main Street would boost economic development, Francis Reiner
of DMR architects said.

The changes are eagerly anticipated, Christopher McCormick, business development manager for Gilbane Building Company, said.

“The past couple of years we haven’t seen anything like this,” McCormick, whose firm is working with Hackensack University Medical Center, said. “They’ve definitely given the developers a lot of incentives and hopefully it all pans out.”

The rehabilitation of Main Street will take time, Lo Iacono said. But the City will see its first big project soon, he said without revealing any details.

Mayor Mike Melfi said he was looking forward to seeing the concepts of the plan become a reality.
“Once the first project comes in here I think that’s going to be the spark for the City,” he said. “From there, it’s going to continue to grow and grow and grow.”

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October 1, 2012 News

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BY STEPHANIE AKIN
THE RECORD

HACKENSACK — Developers looking to build in the city would get more guidance under a streamlined process that is scheduled for Planning Board review.

Nancy Kist, an attorney at DeCotiis, Fitzpatrick and Cole who worked on the new procedures, said the changes are intended to save developers both time and money.

The proposed changes include:

  • A committee of city representatives who would review developers’ pitches before they are formally presented to the zoning or planning boards.
  • Forms and checklists to help developers through the application process.
  • A revamped fee structure that city officials said would be more aligned with costs in surrounding communities.

She could not immediately say what the new fees would be, but she said most of them would be lower.

Developers could also save money by identifying problems with their applications before they begin the costly hearing process, she said.

The changes are part of a city plan designed to spark a downtown building boom and return the city to its heyday as Bergen County’s retail and cultural center.

“I am confident these new measures will be well received by our Planning Board and potential investors in our city,” Hackensack Mayor Mike Melfi said.

A city press release outlining the proposal did not say when the Planning Board would review it, but the board’s next scheduled meeting is Sept. 12.

Main Street

The city approved a 63-page Downtown Rehabilitation Plan in June, easing zoning, parking and other restrictions in a 39 city block-area known as the city’s Main Street corridor.

The plan aims 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.

City officials envision buildings as high as 14 stories, sidewalk restaurants and carefully maintained storefronts.

Changes in the furute would also include improved parking, repairs to the city’s antiquated sewer system and the re-introduction of two-way traffic on Main Street.

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September 5, 2012 News

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By S.P. Sullivan
NJ.com

HACKENSACK — After the approval of an ambitious downtown rehabilitation plan, the city is hammering out new rules that would promote mixed-use retail and residential development along Main Street.
The city has drafted a step-by-step checklist for developers that spells out the uses and materials the planning board will approve and adjusted its fee structure to be more competitive with other cities.

Mayor Mike Melfi said in a statement that the new rules “cut the red tape for developers” along the
Main Street corridor. DMR Architects, the authors of the city’s rehabilitation plan, advised officials to spell out what kinds of development would be permissible downtown to better prepare them for the application process.

The plan also creates a “Pre-Application Review Committee” to review proposed projects at the request of developers before the formal application process.

City Manager Stephen Lo Iacono said the plan is part of the city’s “aggressive efforts to court new developers into our community.”

The city council sent the changes to the planning board earlier this week.

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September 1, 2012 News

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New procedures will increase efficiency and lower costs for developers

(HACKENSACK, NJ) – The Hackensack City Council submitted an ordinance for review by the Planning Board at the August 21, 2012 meeting to streamline the application process for developers and lower costs for those looking to invest in Hackensack. It is the first step towards making Hackensack more efficient and will aid in spurring investment in Hackensack’s Main Street corridor. The process is intended to provide applicants with a clear, defined set of parameters and requirements for the various application types to expedite the submittal, review and approval process.

“Our objective with this new streamlined process is to cut the red tape for developers in Hackensack to promote growth and investment in the Main Street Corridor,” stated Hackensack Mayor Mike Melfi. “Hackensack is continuing to update our procedures to 21st century policies that can allow us to really jumpstart progress in our downtown. I am confident these new measures will be well received by our Planning Board and potential investors in our city.”

As part of the streamlined process, an applicant appearing before the Planning Board or Zoning Board would benefit from the use of newly adopted forms and checklists that provide step by step guidance concerning information that must be provided prior to an application being presented to the Planning Board or Zoning Board. Additionally, the City has revamped its fee structure to align Hackensack’s fee structure with the fees charged in New Jersey communities that are seeking to encourage growth and development.

Additionally, a “Pre-Application Review Committee” (PACRC) will be created whose purpose is to informally review proposed projects that developers voluntarily present to the Committee. The PACRC will consist of the following city representatives:

  • City Manager or Designee
  • Zoning Officer
  • Land Use Administrator
  • Construction Code Official
  • City Attorney or Designee
  • City’s Planning Consultant
  • Planning Board Attorney or Zoning Board Attorney

The purposes of the PACRC are to expedite applications and reduce development costs by engaging in a dialogue with a developer in the early phases of a proposed project which will enable City representatives to provide information and insight concerning opportunities and constraints upon development resulting from existing conditions and regulations. An applicant may request a pre-application conference with the PACRC prior to making a formal application to either the Planning Board of Zoning Board of Adjustment.

“Following the blueprint set forth in our recently adopted Rehabilitation Plan for Main Street, Hackensack is going to continue its aggressive efforts to court new developers into our community,” stated City Manager Stephen Lo Iacono. “This is another important step showing the development community that we are open for business in Hackensack and ready to form mutually beneficial partnerships to our city and prospective developers.”

Visit MainStreetHackensack.com and follow us on Twitter.

CONTACT: MATTHEW P. JORDAN, (973) 714-6115 

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August 29, 2012 Press Release

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HACKENSACK CHRONICLE
BY MARK J. BONAMO

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.”

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July 6, 2012 News

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THE RECORD
BY JAKE HYMAN

www.MainStreetHackensack.com

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.”

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July 5, 2012 News

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

(HACKENSACK, NJ) – Today, the City of Hackensack launched a new website – www.MainStreetHackensack.com – 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.”

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July 3, 2012 Press Release

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THE RECORD
BY STEPHANIE AKIN

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.”

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July 2, 2012 News

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NJBIZ
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.”

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June 29, 2012 News