An aerial view of Lot C, a surface parking lot slated for redevelopment by Hackensack. — Courtesy: DMR Architects
By Joshua Burd
As new construction activity heats up in downtown Hackensack, the city is now seeking a developer to transform a parking lot into a mixed-use “gateway” to its central business district.
City officials recently issued a request for proposals for what’s known as Lot C, a triangular, 4.3-acre site near the Bogota border. The property is a block east of Hackensack University Medical Center and just west of the Hackensack River, while also sitting across from Foschini Memorial Park along East Salem Street.
Francis Reiner, Hackensack’s redevelopment consultant, said the city is looking for a plan that is predominantly residential, with the potential for a small amount of retail. A redevelopment plan adopted by the city in 2014 calls for between 240 and 440 multifamily units, but he believes that “somewhere around 300 units is the right number” for the site.
After issuing the RFP recently, Hackensack hosted an informational meeting that drew representatives from about a dozen development firms, including some who are building elsewhere in the city. Submissions are due Nov. 18.
Lot C is currently a municipal parking lot with 544 spaces. Reiner said the city envisions a two-phase project that takes into account both the location of the site and a county sewer line that runs through the property from north to south.
As such, he said the first phase would likely be a structure of around five stories facing the Bogota border, while the second could be as tall as 14 stories, in accordance with the Lot C redevelopment plan.
“It really is a gateway into the city from Bogota,” said Reiner, a senior urban designer with DMR Architects in Hasbrouck Heights. “So it’s pretty important (as to) how it’s designed at the very point of the property.”
The city would also require a developer to build structured parking that includes about 200 spaces beyond what is required to support the multifamily units. Reiner said there the city wants to ensure that nearby establishments such as the Ice House, a ice skating center, continue to have ample parking for their patrons once the redevelopment takes place.
The lot also supports visitors to Foschini Park during the summer, Reiner added.
Redeveloping the site is at least two years in the making, but the city was delayed by the need to resolve a so-called tidelands claim. Under a decades-old law, the state had a claim on the property because of its proximity to the Hackensack River and, consequently, was entitled to compensation from the city.
But the plan is now taking shape as other development moves forward in the Bergen County seat. After an extensive, multiyear campaign by area business leaders, the city in 2012 adopted a plan to rehabilitate its ailing downtown.
The action included overhauling included zoning changes to accommodate the type of mixed-use development that has helped revitalize other municipalities, with new height allowances and relaxed parking guidelines. And those efforts are now bearing fruit, as projects containing hundreds of residential units are under construction or in the pipeline to begin next year.
One of those properties opened this summer and is showing the market’s potential, Reiner said. The project, a 222-unit residential building on State Street by Capodagli Property Co., is nearly 75 percent leased.
“We’ve got more and more people coming to the table and looking at opportunities in Hackensack, and we keep trying to push that,” Reiner said. “Certainly, having a project that’s open and being successful helps everybody.”
The city is also about to start construction on a 224-seat performing arts center on Atlantic Street.
For Lot C, Reiner noted that a financial offer is not the only criteria that the city will use when evaluating proposals. Other factors include qualifications and development experience, a conceptual development plan and project schedule and phasing.
“They’re really looking for the right project by the right developer that can execute,” Reiner said.