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FORT LEE, NJ-After years of delays, residents of this Bergen County town will have to wait a bit longer to review proposals to redevelop a 15-acre site near the George Washington Bridge. The borough had originally planned to pick a developer by Sept. 15, but that deadline has been extended to permit further assessment of each pitch.

Back in August, four development entities submitted plans to the borough. The quartet included: Silverstein Properties Inc. and partner Taubman Centers Inc.; Tucker Development and Acquisition Fund LP; a partnership of Panepinto Properties, CheongWon LG Corp. and the Straus Group; and Fort Lee Redevelopment Associates LLC, an entity comprised of SJP Residential Properties LLC and James Demetrakis, a lawyer and developer in Bergen County. The submissions propose a mixture of uses for all or a portion of the site.

In an interview with GlobeSt.com, Mayor Mark Sokolich says the borough council has been holding a series of weekly meetings to review each proposal in depth. Once that initial assessment is completed, the council will convene private meetings with each development entity separately. During those sessions, the developers will have an opportunity “to respond to certain questions and requests for additional information that we have uncovered during the course of our review,” Sokolich says. “We will also inquire as to whether or not changes would be acceptable and whether or not they would accept suggestions.”

Aiding the town in that endeavor is NW Financial Group, a forensic accounting firm that focuses on real estate developments. Its job is to determine whether the developers are creditworthy and if what each entity is proposing makes sense based on its financial plan.

“It’s a very complicated matrix of numbers each respondent is providing and it’s important we have a professional in place that specializes in that area to help us shift through this information,” Sokolich says.

One thorny issue is the site’s location in a maze of streets that connect to the George Washington Bridge. “We need to make sure whatever use is permitted is one that is going to work well with the current traffic patterns and the demands that already exist on those roadways,” Sokolich says.

In November, Sokolich hopes to hold a town meeting to gain public input on the project. Much of the information given to the borough is proprietary, the mayor relates, and cannot be released to the public. He has requested that each developer provide “a meaningful package” for public review that includes the number and type of units proposed, architectural layouts and the percentage of retail versus commercial space.

“That way, when there is a town hall meeting, the public will be equipped with information to participate in a meaningful dialogue,” Sokolich states. He declines to say when a selection will be made. “A final decision might be to pick no one, that is how important this decision is,” he stresses.

Yet for many reasons, the redevelopment of the site is important to the borough, Sokolich emphasizes. The project stands to “create something that is going to have a significant impact on the ratable base in Fort Lee and potentially rejuvenate our commercial and retail market,” he says.

The mayor also says the people of the town are “tired of looking at an abandoned piece of property,” adding, “More important than picking the right developer or the best developer is to make sure we don’t pick the wrong developer.” The area has been vacant since the Centuria mixed-use project went belly up last year, and is the site of several failed attempts at revitalization.

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