Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Residential Towers Lead to Land Fee Downtown

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Residential Towers Lead to Land Fee Downtown

Article excerpt

FORT LEE -- Nearly 200 downtown property owners will start paying an annual assessment toward a Business Improvement District, which Borough Council members approved in hopes of revitalizing the neighborhood.

Property owners likely will be assessed up to 5 percent of their property taxes starting next year, with 100 percent of the money to be reinvested into the district, officials said.

The idea behind business improvement districts is to collect fees that pay for beautification and street-improvement projects aimed at drawing more foot traffic to a commercial area and spurring economic growth.

Mayor Mark Sokolich had made the completion of Redevelopment Area 5 -- the major mixed-use project featuring two 47-story residential towers and about 143,000 square feet of retail space -- and the improvement of Main Street key parts of his campaign when he ran for election six years ago.

But when the housing bubble burst in 2007, followed by a national recession, he and council members opted not to impose an extra fee on property owners and placed the idea of a business improvement district on hold. Now, with Redevelopment Area 5 far enough along in construction -- the first 47-story tower recently reached its full height -- officials say the time is right to improve the rest of Main Street.

Sokolich called the formation of the district "equally as important as Redevelopment Area 5."

Anthony Clores, a member of the Fort Lee District Study Committee and a Chamber of Commerce board member, said about 45 business owners attended an information meeting earlier this year and no one spoke in opposition to the district.

"I'm in favor of it for the simple reason that ... because all these stores coming in [to Redevelopment Area 5] will be brand new, we have to get Main Street -- for its own good -- to at least come up to the standard or close to the standard of what will be there just a block away," Clores said.

Officials, too, have repeatedly said that Main Street must be spruced up to attract customers. Over the years, some storefronts have become vacant, while others have lost curb appeal.

Yet not everyone is onboard with the plan. …

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