It's been more than five years since Tucker Development Corp. set out to make its mark in New Jersey.
The results so far: downtown Newark's first new hotel in four decades and two mixed-use projects in high-profile redevelopment areas.
For Richard Tucker, it's a good time to take stock of that progress, especially after breaking ground last week on the two redevelopment projects, in Fort Lee and Newark, in a little more than 24 hours:
"The three projects that we have now … really accomplish our goal of what we set out to do," said Tucker, president and CEO of the Highland Park, Ill.-based company. "So now we have phase two coming, and we're looking for more opportunities."
Tucker broke ground Oct. 16 on the first piece of Hudson Lights, a 1 million-square-foot redevelopment project at the base of the George Washington Bridge, in Fort Lee. The first phase, which comes at a site that's long been slated for redevelopment, will include 143,000 square feet of retail space and some 275 apartments.
The following day, Tucker joined city and state officials in Newark to kick off construction at Springfield Avenue Marketplace, a Shop Rite-anchored project that will feature 125,000 square feet of retail space and 144 rental units.
"You work on projects for five years and then you have back-to-back groundbreakings," Tucker said. "That's definitely not the way you plan it, but I will not argue."
Since announcing plans to enter New Jersey in early 2008, Tucker said the firm has created "what we think is a pretty good position within the market, (and) we're looking to keep moving that forward." The company is now exploring about a half-dozen new development prospects elsewhere in the state. It's likely that most would be mixed-use in nature, while taking place in "barrier-to-entry locations" such as Newark and Fort Lee.
Such projects are "more difficult deals to finish, but when they're finished, we think they have a great position within the marketplace," Tucker said.
The firm acquired both the Hudson Lights and Springfield Avenue sites in 2008, he said. And while working on those projects, the firm developed the 150-room Courtyard by Marriott, near Newark's Prudential Center. The hotel, which opened last fall, was the city's first new downtown hotel in 40 years.
And Tucker's success with the Marriott helped pave the way for more success in New Jersey, especially in Newark, said Frank Giantomasi, who served as Tucker's redevelopment counsel on all three projects here. In the Brick City, where Tucker has made use of state and city financial incentives, such a "comfort level" is critical.
"There have been a lot of outside developers that have approached Newark looking for assistance … and there have been a lot of false starts," said Giantomasi, a partner with Newark-based Genova, Burns, Giantomasi, Webster. "So the track record that Tucker developed with the Marriott, which was another big undertaking for Newark, assisted him with getting through the city government."