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When legendary NYC-based developer and visionary Sam LeFrak took on the task of developing vacant and vandalized rail yards on this city’s Hudson River waterfront back in the mid ’80s, he conjured up a package of five million sf of office space and other uses. That’s a lot of space-fully half of the amount that exists in the massive World Trade Center directly across the river in Manhattan.

And it’s not enough. For now, the Lefrak Organization is limited by state and local regulations to “only” that five million feet of office space at what is now called Newport Center, the company’s 400-acre planned community. But that space cap could change, and soon.

Indeed, the office market is so hot all across Northern NJ, and demand for space is so high, that Sam LeFrak and son Richard are seeking city and state approvals to up the ante to at least seven million feet, and perhaps more. “I can’t build space fast enough,” the elder LeFrak admits.

They’ll have to raze some low-rise retail to accomplish it. The specific site on which additional office towers would rise is currently occupied by several retail tenants, including International Food Market and a Pep Boys auto store. But the plan for more offices has the solid backing of JC Mayor Bret Schundler, who comments that “it could make economic sense for them to buy out the retail leases and redevelop the area for high-rise office use.”

Schundler has continually pushed for more development along the waterfront, while at the same time battling the administration of Governor Christine Todd Whitman and lawmakers in Trenton. State officials, seeing Jersey City’s redevelopment success, have been trying to cut the city’s state funding and divert it to other cities.

“Only one-third of our budget is covered by local real estate taxes,” he told GlobeSt.com. “So when the state tries to cut our funding, the pressure falls on our taxpayers to make up the difference. That just isn’t good for business, or for our private citizens.”

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