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WOOD-RIDGE, NJ-Somerset Development LLC has gotten final planning board approval, paving the way for the start of construction for Wesmont Station, a mixed-use community that will rise on a 67-acre portion of the former Curtiss-Wright industrial complex here. Officials of Lakewood-based Somerset say the project will build out in five phases over the next eight years, with an estimated price tag of $500 million.

“This development creates a sense of community by permitting civic and commercial buildings to co-exist with nearby homes,” says Lloyd Rosenberg, president/CEO of DMR Architects. His Hasbrouck Heights-based firm designed the site plan and took the project through the approval process, and has already won a Smart Growth Award for it from New Jersey Future, a research and policy group. “The transit village also makes good financial sense.”

The “transit village” appellation derives from the fact that Wesmont Station will rise around a new commuter rail station on NJ Transit’s Bergen Line as part of a state-supported effort to create density at transit hubs. The site plan developed by DMR calls for 737 residential units, 130,000 sf of retail and commercial space, parking, a town square with an events plaza, a new middle school and athletic fields and 1,000-seat bandstand.

As reported by GlobeSt.com, Somerset got its preliminary approvals this past December, an event Wood-Ridge Mayor Paul Sarlo hailed as “the most historic vote in our history.” The whole process began in late 2001 when Somerset, headed by president Ralph Zucker, and with the financial backing of the New York-based investment firm Rubin Schron, bought the larger 154-acre site from Curtiss-Wright for a reported $51 million and set in motion a plan to redevelop approximately half of it with mixed uses.

Curtiss-Wright had used the site and its 2.5 million sf of industrial space for many years to build and test jet engines. The jet engine operation was shuttered in the early 1980s, but C-W continued to own and operate it as a multi-tenant W/D complex. The space being redeveloped had been in use as a parking lot, and an existing two-million-sf industrial building will remain in use behind the Wesmont Station project as W/D space, according to Zucker.

Local officials estimate that the built-out Wesmont Station will add about 2,500 residents to Wood-Ridge, effectively a 33% increase for the community of 7,500.

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