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SECAUCUS, NJ-When they started building the recently opened Secaucus Transfer Station (see earlier story) linking most of the state’s rail lines several years ago, it was a given that the sprawling $450 million transit hub would spark ancillary commercial development. Now that the station is open, state and local officials want to make sure they have some control over what happens around the site.

At an informational meeting on Wednesday night, officials of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, a state agency, unveiled a general master plan for a total of 386 acres surrounding the station. Of that total acreage, now mostly vacant land and warehouses, about 60% of it would remain as open space for the public. The station and the proposed development site are located immediately adjacent to the New Jersey Turnpike.

The remaining 40% of the tract, if all goes as planned, would be redeveloped as a so-called “transit village,” mirroring on a much larger scale the mixed-use developments currently taking place at several of the Garden State’s other transportation hubs. The plan, which NJMC officials caution is “in its initial stages,” calls for a total of up to 750,000 sf of commercial space, mostly office and retail, along with 1,850 residential units, a hotel of up to 500 rooms, a conference center of between 30,000 and 50,000 sf and an amphitheater along the Hackensack River.

“The commission received many inquiries from interested parties regarding the potential development of properties around the station,” according to NJMC executive director Robert Ceberio, speaking at the plan’s unveiling. “We were concerned about development around the station that might not fit the area. Rather than entertaining individual applications, the commission believed that it would be prudent to create a plan so that the land uses would have a synergistic effect on the area.”

The commission, working with other local and regional groups, paid the consulting firm of Clarke Caton Hintz/Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut & Kuhn a reported $80,000 to come up with the plan. And while it doesn’t put a price tag on the project, the report accompanying the plan projects a total market value of well over $700 million at build-out.

And build-out is decidedly a long-term deal in this case. The commission projects that it will take up to 25 years to get it all done. The next step in the process, according to commission officials, is ongoing public input to shape the final plan.

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