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HARRISON, NJ-The site has been cleared, contaminated soil removed and replaced, and now the $1-billion redevelopment project formerly known as Harrison MetroCentre is set for above-ground construction. The project of Bedminster, NJ-based Advanced Realty has been renamed the Riverbend District, and the site is directly across the Passaic River from downtown Newark

Advance officials say the new name better reflects what they plan to create on the 135-acre site along a bend in the river. On tap are upwards of three million square feet of mixed uses, built in phases. The name change is also likely an offshoot of the renaming of the Major League Soccer team that will call the 25,000-seat stadium currently under construction as a centerpiece for the redevelopment. The New York Red Bulls were, until a few years ago, known as the MetroStars.

What’s on tap initially is work on site utilities and roadways, expected to be completed by October 2009 when the stadium, now known as Red Bull Arena, is slated to open. The remediation effort included the removal of more than 48,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil, the result of decades of industrial usage of the site.

“Completing such an extensive site remediation really gets the ball rolling toward both horizontal and vertical construction,” says Peter J. Cocoziello, president and CEO of Advance Realty. “When it’s completed, Riverbend District will be made up of several interconnected neighborhoods. And the location is ideal.”

Plans for the project call for more than 800,000 square feet of retail space, including an anchor supermarket, a 16-screen cinema and a number of eateries. Two hotels are also part of the plan, including a 200-room property and a 350-room full-service hotel with 25,000 square feet of conference space.

The project will be topped off by a wellness center, 1,800 for-sale and rental residential units and as much as 1.5 million square feet of office space. Actual vertical construction is expected to start in early 2010. It’s also a transit-oriented project, with close links to NJ Transit, Amtrak and an onsite PATH light rail station that’s getting a $180-million upgrade.

The project dates to early 2004 when Advance finalized a redevelopment agreement with the City of Harrison. Advance subsequently picked up site approval in mid-2007.

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