A proposed $50 million shopping center tentatively known as "The Commons of North Bergen" - slated to be built along Tonnelle Avenue at the site of the vacant Crown Cork and Seal factory and a current shopping area - has been put on hold. The developer and the current land owner cannot agree on a sale price for the property.
According to Township Administrator Joseph Auriemma, the Related Companies of New York, which has a signed redeveloper's agreement with the township to build on the site, is having difficulty in sale negotiations with the owners of the properties on the proposed development site.
"Apparently, the costs are considerably more than what was originally anticipated," Auriemma said. "These are obstacles that the developer didn't foresee happening when the plans were presented to us."
North Bergen had already designated $2 million in Urban Enterprise Zone funds to help defray the cost of the Commons of North Bergen, which was initially intended to resemble the Clifton Commons shopping plaza on Route 3 East in Clifton. That plaza has been a major financial boom for Related Companies and the town economy in Clifton, so it made strong fiscal sense to transform the downtrodden area into a shopping bonzana.
Originally, the developer believed the purchase price of the property, which begins at 69th Street and Tonnelle Avenue and stretches to 77th Street, to be somewhere in the $18-to-$20 million range, but the price is currently now over $20 million.
Shiva Properties, which owns the land that currently houses K-Mart, Marshall's, Wendy's and Dunkin' Donuts, is seeking more than what the property has been assessed at for "relocation fees" for the current tenants - even though it was believed that the new developer would seek to include Marshall's and K-Mart as possible businesses to reside in the new Commons of North Bergen, when it was slated to be completed in late 2003.
Also, the owners of the Crown Cork and Seal factory differ with Related Companies of New York on environmental clean up costs, causing another snag in the negotiations.
The proposed 250,000 square foot shopping center was also going to be directly linked to the new Lowe's Home Improvement Center, which meant that shoppers could have entered and exited the shopping center to Tonnelle Avenue in safer fashion. The developer and the township were in the process of discussions with the state Department of Transportation about the matter, considering that Tonnelle Avenue also serves as State Highway Routes 1&9.
If no sale agreement on the properties can be reached, the township may have to seek legal means to get out of the contract it signed with Related Companies over the proposed UEZ funds.
In other development news...
While the major development project hit some obstacles, the Board of Commissioners put their seal of approval on another.
The Board adopted an ordinance last Wednesday that created a new redevelopment zone between 56th and 58th streets and Kennedy Boulevard, paving the way for Alfran Realty to seek site plan approvals for a 250-unit apartment complex to be called Meadowview Square, at the site of a current near-vacant warehouse.
The development project will also call for 23,000 square feet of retail space and 16,500 square feet of office space, as well as parking for 300 cars.
That site was once considered as a possible location for a new North Bergen High School, but that has now totally been scrapped. The new ordinance will clear any obstacles for the Meadowview Square project.