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JERSEY CITY-It already contains more than 16 million sf of mixed-use space on several hundred acres along this city’s waterfront, but Newport, as the planned community is called, is about to get a bigger. Plans have been unveiled for four new high-rise towers that will add more than 900 residences and a 429-key hotel to the mix.

“Two decades ago we stood on this site and promised to transform abandoned rail yards, terminals and river piers into a showcase of retail, residential, office and leisure facilities,” said Richard LeFrak, chairman and president of the Lefrak Organization, yesterday at the groundbreaking for two of the four new towers. LeFrak’s late father Sam and partners Melvin and Herbert Simon of Melvin Simon & Associates initiated the Newport project in June 1986.

“Today we’re here to acknowledge that we kept that promise,” LeFrak continued. “We’re also here to make another–to complete our master plan for the entire site.”

With the groundbreaking, construction is officially under way for the Westin Newport Hotel, a 429-room, 253-ft tall building on the waterfront. Construction is also officially under way for the Ellipse, a 460-ft high structure that will contain 325 rental apartments adjacent to the 14th Street pier. Both buildings are scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2008.

The two structures join the third new tower, Shore Club Condominiums at Newport North Tower, a sister project to the existing Shore Club Condominiums at Newport South Tower. The Newport North Tower, on which construction began last month, will have 220 condo units on 28 stories. And completion of the Westin Hotel and Ellipse buildings in 2008 will trigger the start of construction for the fourth of the new towers: the Aqua, a waterfront rental property, will rise 31 stories and contain a total of 363 apartments.

Since construction began in 1986, the LeFrak/Simon partnership has invested almost $2.5 billion to build the existing 16 million-plus sf. Another nine million sf can be accommodated within the Newport site, according to LeFrak. The total new investment in the four buildings is reportedly in the $750-million range.

The existing community, said to be the largest MXD waterfront community in the US, consists of more than 4,100 apartments and condos in 11 high-rise buildings, all 100% rented or sold. Also part of the mix is the 1.2-million-sf suburban-style Newport Centre Mall, which is managed by Simon Property Group, plus 600,000 sf of additional retail and restaurant space, mostly ground-floor space in the residential and office towers.

That office space totals five million sf in eight buildings featuring such tenants as UBS, JP Morgan Chase, US Trust, Morgan Stanley, Charles Schwab, Cigna, HSBC and ISO, plus 30 acres of parks, a swim club and fitness center, a waterfront walkway, a 180-boat marina, a 190-room Marriott Hotel and parking for more than 14,000 cars. The community also has a couple of private schools.

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