Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Builders Respond to Downtown Plan

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Builders Respond to Downtown Plan

Article excerpt

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. …

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