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Grapevine: A casino in Jersey City? Makes sense, but not soon

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Would Jersey City be the logical place for a North Jersey casino? Absolutely, said a source who deals regularly with the city. But, they warned, don't expect this to happen any time soon.

“There's nothing there yet,” the source said in response to a story on a potential project last week in The Star-Ledger. “There's not even a process for how this would be done.

Reverse the timeline and you'll see. It would have to go before the voters — and that's not happening until 2015 at the earliest. Then the legislature would have to be pass an act in 2016. And if it's a bidding process with a limited number of casinos, that will take time. Then it would have to be built. “This isn't two years away; it may be five years away. Is there anyway this gets done before 2018? I don't think so.”

The source, however, was confident that Jersey City makes a much better location than the Meadowlands.

“A 95-story building in a growing city would fit right into the skyline,” the person said. “Can you say the same for the American Dream? Does anyone even know what that is going to look like yet?

“If this comes down to a bidding process, no pun intended, but the best bet is Jersey City.”

Low profile for Holtec despite high-profile award

Holtec International, a global manufacturer of equipment and supplies for the energy industry, made big news in Trenton last week when it secured a 10-year, $260 million award for a proposal to build a new 600,000-square-foot facility in Camden.

On the books, it's the third-largest tax credit ever approved by the Economic Development Authority, just behind the one given to Revel in 2011 and last year's massive, record-breaking $390 million award for the American Dream project in the Meadowlands.

EDA president Tim Lizura applauded the project and Camden Mayor Dana Redd was there, too, calling it yet another big step in the right direction for her city. The two stood side-by-side after the meeting, taking questions from the press.

What did Holtec have to say? We don't know because there was no one there publicly representing the company.

Sure, there most likely was someone there on the company's behalf. But he or she did not identify himself or herself, and neither did the EDA board, as it often does with major projects such as these.

Take for example the recent 76ers project, the one that drew so much heat from critics of incentives. It was only a 10-year, $82 million award, paling in comparison to Holtec's proposed tax break, but Lizura, Redd and team CEO Scott O'Neil were all there following the meeting to take questions.

Before this project even got to the voting table, reported ties between Holtec president K.P. (Kris) Singh and South Jersey power broker George Norcross were put out there. Singh serves on the board of Cooper University Health Care, which Norcross chairs, and Norcross similarly serves on Holtec's board.

Asked whether Norcross had any involvement in the award's procurement, Lizura said he was “not aware” of it.

Buyer found for Verzon building

After many years of searching, Verizon New Jersey may have found a buyer for 540 Broad Street, the historic New Jersey Bell headquarters building in Newark.

The name of the buyer was still unclear last week, but a source said the news would be coming out in the coming weeks. The deal would cap off a process dating back some five years, with a few close calls that fizzled out as the downturn set in.

The 20-story, 428,000-square-foot Art Deco building sits Broad and Lombardy streets, at the northern end of Newark's central business district along Washington Park. Verizon put the building on the market in 2009.

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