Panasonic plans ‘R&D’ facility in Harrison

Photo by Ron Leir/ Edward Russo tells Harrison Planning Board about proposed Panasonic building.


By Ron Leir


It turns out that Newark won’t be reaping all the gold from Panasonic’s migration out of Secaucus. Harrison is getting in the act, too: The town figures to derive significant financial benefits from the corporate giant relocating a portion of its business here as well.

About a year ago, the worldwide electronics manufacturer announced plans to move its North American headquarters from Secaucus – where it has operated since 1973 – to downtown Newark with the aid of a $102.4 million tax credit from the N.J. Economic Development Authority (EDA).

Panasonic’s landlord, Hartz Mountain Industries Inc., and the Town of Secaucus sued to stop the move, claiming that the tax credit violated the intent of the state law designed to keep jobs in New Jersey, but, ultimately, both ended the litigation in hopes that new legislation would be crafted to deal with corporate intrastate moves.

According to published reports, Newark has earmarked a vacant privatelyowned tract at Raymond Blvd. and McCarter Highway for construction of a highrise office tower, possibly as tall as 18 floors, to accommodate hundreds of Panasonic employees under a 15-year lease and Newark should realize millions of dollars in revenues from the project.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Passaic River, Harrison is bracing for its own share of lucre from the corporate cash cow.

On May 29, the Harrison Planning Board voted unanimously in favor of an application by Russo- Advance at Harrison I, LLC for site plan approval that would permit construction of a one-story, 30-foot tall “office technology center building with approximately 48,000 square feet of ground space and the right to construct approximately 10,000 square feet of mezzanine space, together with associated parking, landscaping and site improvements (at Frank Rodgers Blvd. and Guyon Drive, just south of the PATH station) to be used for office, laboratory, storage and associated uses.”

The board also granted the applicant design waivers to allow two ground-mounted signs exceeding the 60 square feet permitted under the Harrison Waterfront Redevelopment Plan and two building signs that will conform to redevelopment conditions.

Christopher Minks, attorney for the applicant, said his client “envisions Panasonic as the tenant” for the new building and is “very close to signing a lease.”

The Advance Co. is the owner of the development site and the Russo Development Co., of Carlstadt, will construct the building for Panasonic, Minks said.

Russo, through an affiliated company known as Russo at Harrison Urban Renewal, LLC., received fi – nal approvals from the Planning Board, also on May 29, to proceed with construction at 1100 Fifth St., also known as “Block C” in the Harrison Waterfront Redevelopment Area, of a fi vestory building with a mix of 326 rental apartments, 440 parking spaces, about 10,000 square feet of retail space (restaurant and bank).

Once building permits are in hand, the company anticipates beginning construction on Block C by late summer or early fall, according to Russo Development President/COO Edward Russo. “We’ll build the garage first,” Russo said. It will contain 380 spaces; the rest will be on-site.

As many as 2,000 pilings may have to be driven to prepare the foundation, he added.

As for the Panasonic building, Russo said that talks between the electronics firm and his firm began nine months ago about locating a site near Newark for a research and development facility and, after potential sites in Hudson County, south Bergen and the meadows were ruled out, Panasonic opted for the Harrison location.

Russo said Panasonic plans to outfit the building – which would occupy about three acres of the 8-acre site – to accommodate a repair lab, machine testing spaces, a small product showroom of large cameras for corporate customers, plus storage space to be serviced by three loading bays and a fourth bay for trash disposal.

Russo added: “We anticipate a fair number of employees (later quantifi ed as “40 or so” by Russo traffic expert Nick Verderese) going back and forth to Panasonic’s main facility in Newark. … There will be a lot of sharing.”

Harrison Mayor Ray McDonough said the governing body will meet on June 6 to consider introduction of ordinances authorizing PILOTs (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) for both the Panasonic and the Block C mixed-use projects.

If the PILOTs are approved by the Town Council, McDonough estimated that Harrison would realize annual revenues of about $133,000 for the Panasonic property and about $850,000 for the Block C tract.

Later this year, also in the waterfront redevelopment zone, The Pegasus Group is expected to move on construction of a hotel between the Harrison Parking Center and the Harrison Station mixed-use development site.

In a related action, the various principals involved in building in the waterfront district have banded together to form the Harrison Community Developers Association, co-chaired by Peter Cocoziello of Advance and Carl Goldberg of Roseland Property Co.

“All of us involved want to see Harrison succeed so we formed an association which will focus on a mutual effort to create the proper infrastructure (to support redevelopment) that will parallel the Port Authority’s upgrade of the Harrison PATH station,” Cocoziello said. “Even though we’re competitors, we still have the philosophy that all of our boats rise in Harrison. We want to make this community a great place in which to live and work.”

Cocoziello said the group would also lobby for improvements to the Rt. 280 Harrison interchange which would give the town “fourway access from the east and west.” The N.J. Department of Transportation is currently at work reviewing different routing options.

Other “side discussions” that Cocoziello said the group hopes to expedite with the state involve “formulating the kinds of incentives and programs available to help with subsidies for development,” such as remediating brownfields.

Finally, Cocoziello said, the association believes “that it’s vitally important that the entire Harrison community goes through an upgrade,” such as making Town Hall and other municipal buildings more energy efficient.

To get out the message about growing Harrison, Cocoziello said the association has pooled $100,000 for lobbyists, advertising and public relations efforts. As the “guiding arm” of a marketing campaign, the group has retained the services of the Hackensack-based PR firm run by Michael Beckerman.

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