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WOOD-RIDGE, NJ-In what Mayor Paul A. Sarlo terms “the most historic vote in our history,” the borough council here has approved a plan to turn much of a former industrial site into a mixed-use development. Carrying an estimated price tag of $500 million, Westmont Station will rise on 80 acres within the 154-acre former Curtiss-Wright manufacturing complex.

The Lakewood-based Somerset Development is behind the project which, when completed, will include 737 residential units, approximately 100,000 sf of retail space, a middle school, ballfields, public space and a new train station. Somerset is managed by president Ralph Zucker, and for Westmont Station has the financial support of the New York-based investment firm, Rubin Schron.

The project has been in the works since late 2001 when Somerset bought the site from Curtiss-Wright for a reported $51 million. Curtiss-Wright had used the site and its 2.5 million sf of industrial space for many years to build and test jet engines. At its peak during World War II, the complex employed more than 15,000. Curtiss-Wright shut the operation down in the early 1980s, but continued to own and operate it as a multi-tenant W/D complex.

According to Zucker, Westmont Station will rise on 80 acres currently underutilized as a parking lot. An existing industrial building of two million sf will remain in use as W/D space behind the project. Portions of the site, which has suffered from contamination, have been remediated, and Somerset will spend an estimated $6 million to complete that process. The new train station will be operated as part of NJ Transit’s Bergen Line.

“This process shows the effect of good, positive design,” Zucker said after local officials approved the project. That vote came after a presentation of a site plan designed by Miami-based architect Andres Duany.

According to John Knifton, Somerset’s vice president of development, construction will be carried out in five phases starting next spring. The five phases are expected to take at least eight years to complete, says Knifton, which would put full build-out in the year 2014. Local officials also estimate that Westmont Station will add upwards of 2,500 new residents to this Bergen County community of 7,500.

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