Hotel, eatery, medical offices at Roche site?


The designated developer of the Roche Diagnostic property in Belleville has completed acquisition of the 19-acre parcel, thereby clearing the way for hammering out a redeveloper agreement with the township.

Sonny Jumani, president and partner of Tulfra Real Estate, whose firm was picked in May as “conditional developer” of the site at Franklin Ave. and Mill St., told The Observer last week that the Rochelle Parkbased industrial real estate and management company closed on the property Oct. 16.

Jumani said the purchase price was $1.25 million.

Next step, he said, will be drafting a redevelopment plan that matches the vision that the township has sketched out for the site.

Tulfra will partner with Hampshire Companies of Morristown to develop the property and both are in the process of considering redevelopment options.

A statement on the Tulfra website quotes Jumani as saying, “We are extremely pleased and honored that the township of Belleville has selected us to be the redeveloper and now that we own the site, we are looking forward to finalizing the details of that relationship and to a great working relationship with the township.

“We are looking at a number of uses for the property, and we will work closely with the township to redevelop the site into an attractive, productive project that everyone will be proud of. Our goal is to bring significant jobs and ratables into the community.”

In a phone interview last week, Jumani told The Observer that two potential uses for the site – which sits next to Clara Maass Medical Center – stand out above all: a pharmacy and a business-oriented hotel, possibly for up to 125 rooms.

A third consideration, Jumani said, could be an upscale restaurant and a fastfood facility, and a fourth could be medical offices.

The adjacent hospital, with some 3,000 employees, “can be a huge draw” for both proposed eating places and a hotel can accommodate part of the business traffic that uses the nearby Rt. 21 corridor and other highways, he said.

And, Jumani said, “a lot of doctors in the area are opening their own medical offices and we’ve been approached by a few looking to do that. So one possibility is a medical supercenter with a separate floor for surgery and other floors for private medical practices.”

As to how all the various concepts would be realized, Jumani said, “We want to do it in phases.”

Jumani anticipated having a “more formal plan” outlining these concepts available to present to the township “within 90 days.”

In the meantime, Kevin Esposito, the township’s interim manager, was hopeful that a draft of a redeveloper agreement could be ready “by the next Township Council meeting on Nov. 10.”

With guidance from the conceptual redevelopment plan the township has advanced for the site, “the developer has an extensive blank canvas to work with,” Esposito said.

As for the status of an environmental cleanup of the site, for which Roche has pledged up to $5 million, Esposito said that Tulfra has that obligation and how it will be done will be dictated by the state Department of Environmental Protection, to be overseen by an LSRP (Licensed Site Remediation Professional) retained by Tulfra.

Meanwhile, plans are proceeding on a parallel track for the redevelopment of a second 118-acre Roche parcel that straddles the Nutley/Clifton border.

The Nutley Planning Board was due to meet Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Building to consider the subdivision of a 10.9-acre portion of the roughly 50- acre Roche tract that sits in Nutley into four separate lots to accommodate the conversion of Buildings 123 and 123A, each six stories with a total of 412,000 square feet of space, into a private medical school – to be developed by a joint venture of Hackensack University Medical Center and Seton Hall University – with medical research facilities – all as part of a “Phase 1” development cluster.

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