Changing West Hudson’s skyline

Photo by Ron Leir/ Members of the team developing a new apartment building in East Newark, from l., are: John Golemis, his brother Van Golemis, dad George Golemis and general contractor Joe Corallo. Missing is James Golemis, another brother


By Ron Leir

The overall economy may still be sluggish but pockets of West Hudson are showing signs of rebirth.

In East Newark, for example, the Golemis family – which owns and operates Tops Diner – has begun construction of “The St. George,” a 60-unit market rental apartment building at 400 President St., just across from the diner.

Also, in neighboring Harrison, Heller Urban Renewal, the redevelopment arm of Heller Industrial Parks, has completed an environmental cleanup and begun the demolition of the vacant industrial buildings at the old Hartz Mountain site on Frank Rodgers Blvd. as a prelude to building 747 luxury rental apartments.

To ease public and private transportation infrastructure into the region, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey has pledged a $275 million upgrade of its Harrison PATH station to accommodate an increased ridership base and state, county and local transit experts are studying ways of improving access to and from Rt. 280.

Plus, the Town of Harrison on April 24 approved amendments to its waterfront redevelopment plan to permit a more diverse land use plan that will allow for additional hotels, technology, health care facilities and garages to mix with the thousands of new residential units to be built in the zone.

Back in East Newark, Mirage Construction Corp., of Fort Lee, is completing the first level of what will be a four-story slab-on-grade with transfer deck structure that will contain a heated parking garage with a ground-floor lobby and 60 apartments.

Project developer Van Golemis said the garage is being built to a 15-foot height “so everyone who lives on the first floor (and above) will get an unobstructed view of the New York skyline.”

The lobby will house a dropoff dry cleaner, health club, community room and management office. Tenants will also have access to an outdoor interior courtyard patio.

Monthly rents for 45 one-bedroom units, averaging 1,000 square feet, and 15 one-bedroom apartments, averaging 1,200 square feet, will range from about $1,500 to about $1,800.

Joe Corallo, Mirage’s boss, said he’s equipping all apartments with “central air and forced hot air, so utility bills will probably average $90 a month.” The roof will be outfitted with solar panels as another energy savings strategy.

All apartments will have washing machines and dryers, white oak hardwood floors, tiled bathrooms and kitchens, stainless steel appliances, granite counter tops, refrigerator, dish washer and range. Tenants will get remote devices to access what Golemis characterized as a “gated community.”

Construction, expected to generate 500 temporary jobs, should be finished by April 2013. “Thanks to a mild winter, we’re six weeks ahead of schedule,” Golemis said. The project, financed by Golemis Investment Group, figures to cost $6 million.

The Golemis Group also financed Fort Lee’s West Pointe Brownstones, 18 townhouses which opened in September 2011. “By Christmas the whole project was rented out,” Golemis said.

At the Hartz site in Harrison, Jeffrey J. Milanaik, president of Heller Industrial Parks, Inc., said: “Things are moving along right according to plan and we are so excited to be making progress on this vital project for Harrison. Over the next year, the Heller team will work diligently to properly demolish the 750,000 square feet of blighted industrial buildings at the (10.5-acre) site to make sure we set the proper foundation for Harrison Station.”

Heller expects to seek site plan approval from the Harrison Planning Board this spring for construction of six residential mid-rise towers that will house a combination of one- and two-bedroom luxury residences and about 30,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. Tenants will have access to a glass-enclosed gym and meeting rooms.

The first phase of construction is targeted for 2013. Harrison Station, which is within walking distance to Red Bull Arena, will also provide sheltered access to the adjacent PATH station.

In 2003 Heller was named redeveloper of the former General Motors site, previously home to the Hyatt Roller Bearing Co., in Harrison. Heller’s founder was Isaac Heller, who was the creative force behind Remco Toys in Harrison.

In making changes to its redevelopment plan, Harrison planning consultant Susan Gruel said, “The core vision remains the same; we’re just refinining the implementation and strategies to get there.”

In terms of land use, for example, the category of “wellness centers” – defined as “facilities having programs intended to promote and maintain a state of physical wellbeing for optimal performance and health” – has been added as a principal permitted use.

The plan now includes a “Railroad Ave. Corridor District,” running from Frank Rodgers Blvd. to First St. “as an active retail service corridor with destination type uses” such as “retail sales and service, financial institutions, restaurants, theaters, catering facilities, mini-storage, indoor recreation and entertainment uses including fitness center, food stores, art galleries, farmer’s market, home design/ home furnishings, offices (including medical), dance studios, karate schools and the like, small business incubators, schools, travel and insurance services, real estate offices (and) structured parking. No drive-thru uses shall be permitted.”

These types of uses “may require wider facades, have larger floor areas and are more auto dependent than ‘window small business incubators, schools, travel and insurance services, real estate offices (and) structured parking. No drive-thru uses shall be permitted.”


Photo Courtesy Heller Industrial Park/ Heller Urban Reneral Contractor begins demolition at Harrison Station

These types of uses “may require wider facades, have larger floor areas and are more auto dependent than ‘window shopping’ uses in the Riverbend Drive commercial corridor.”

As an “interim” step, the Railroad Ave. corridor will stretch “through the ‘temporary’ adaptive reuse of the 147,000 square foot industrial building between Second and Third Sts. and potentially the 73,000 square foot industrial building between Second and First Sts.”

A Commercial District is now designated for two areas:

The 2.5-acre site fronting Harrison Ave. and First St., which is “proposed to contain a 3- to 5-story medical office/wellness center with parking on site.

And the site east of Frank Rodgers Blvd. and north of Guyon Drive., which is targeted for a “signature” office building 10 to 25 stories in height, which integrates the (upgraded) PATH station into the site design.”

A Planned Office District is designated for the 20-acre PSE&G site, south of the PATH station. Here, there are plans for “office towers, 10 to 25 stories in height …. The ground floors may contain restaurants and other uses that will provide amenities to the occupants of the buildings. The upper floors may contain offices, hotel space and health clubs.”

Because the utility property “is constrained by underground utilities and contamination … the extent of development and location of the buildings will be determined by these constraints (and will) likely require small building footprints.”

An Office/Technology Center District is designated for “the vacant area north of Guyon Drive and south of Rt. 280.” Technology Center is defined as “laboratories and service center facilities which include a mix of office, lab, service, showroom and storage space (and) may also include training space for technicians and staff. Storage space shall be limited to 30% of the gross floor-area of any building.”

A Food Oriented District that would host “wholesale food and associated retail food establishment (and/ or) retail sales, restaurant and/or offices” is designated for “just north of the main entrance to the (Red Bull) Arena.”

A Structured Parking District calls for between 1,000 to 1,200 (parking) spaces to provided in the former American Bridge Co. building, whose façade shall be maintained.

A Parks/Walkway District would accommodate a “public promenade” “parallel to the (Passaic River’s) edge.”

Gruel estimated it will take “15 to 20” years for final build-out of the redevelopment zone. So far, she said, “over $1 billion of private investment has been expended or committed” for the projects and “almost $300 million of public funds has been committed.”

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