The empty parcels of land next to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee moved one step closer to being occupied Wednesday.
Borough leaders and representatives from BNE Real Estate Group held an official groundbreaking on a 12-story, $70 million luxury residential tower at 2050 Central Road, where work on the tower began in mid-October.
The 194-unit complex will feature amenities like a fitness center and a concierge, but its location is what makes the project important. The building is being constructed next to redevelopment area five, which contains land that remained vacant for more than 40 years due to failed projects, most notably the Centuria project.
"The project approved next door, especially with its large retail component, is a huge benefit to our project," said Jonathan Schwartz, executive vice president of Livingston-based BNE, of the Hudson Lights development that will occupy a nearby parcel.
"We've owned the property close to 10 years now, the project was first approved for an active-adult condominium project," Schwartz said. "We spent a lot of time redesigning the project and ultimately ended up with a 194-unit free market rental project."
Schwartz said BNE has turned many of its projects originally designed for condominiums into rental properties as the market shifted from demand for property ownership to renting. The company will manage the tower once it is completed.
Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich said the borough increased its business-friendly policies and has been working with lawyers and developers closely in order to get redevelopment area five moving forward.
Sokolich said the borough is close to adopting a new plan for the Hudson Lights properties so Tucker Development Corp., which is working on the west parcel, and the Fort Lee Redevelopment Associates, which is developing the east parcel, can go before the planning board before the end of the year.
Sokolich reinstated a Dec. 22 borough council meeting that had been canceled for the holidays in order to help move the project forward and meet some of the developers' contractual deadlines. "It's that important to the community."
Sokolich said the projects are smart growth for the community — without adding too much to the population density, the number of tax ratable properties for the borough will increase significantly. Sokolich said the Fort Lee Redevelopment Associates project alone could provide up to $8 million in tax revenue.
"We hope it's contagious," Sokolich said.