With development still increasing in Jersey City, plenty of longtime property owners have been looking to cash in by selling or redeveloping their land in order to make way for apartments or condominiums. However, redeveloping one group of tracts at the edge of Downtown Jersey City has been easier said than done. Controversy surrounded part of the Bates Street Redevelopment Plan Area over the last year, with two companies, including the one that owns much of the site in question, both planning new complexes at the same location. Now, more than half a year after the dispute began, it appears that there is finally a resolution.
Back in November 2017, Sanford Weiss and Alex Wright of the Manhattan Building Company’s Bates Redevelopment, LLC subsidiary made a presentation to the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency’s (JCRA) Board of Commissioners about their plan to bring around 870 rentals and retail space to several properties around Bates Street near Old Colony Square. As we reported at the time, the board then designated the LLC as the redeveloper of these tracts.
As it turned out, Bates Redevelopment, LLC was not the owner of the lots that they sought to redevelop. Part of the site is actually owned by Mecca Realty Properties, which was reportedly in the process of planning its own smaller development on the premises. This proposal was put in jeopardy when the unaffiliated Bates Redevelopment, LLC received the official master redeveloper designation from the JCRA.
Shortly after the dispute between the two companies was revealed, Mecca Realty Properties and affiliated firms filed a lawsuit against not only Bates Redevelopment, LLC, Weiss, and Wright, but also the City of Jersey City, the JCRA, the Jersey City Planning Board, and a host of City Hall and JCRA officials in an attempt to move forward with their own development project. The lawsuit, which was posted by The Jersey Journal, mentioned in part that “the City’s development and redevelopment apparatus is trampling the Meccas’ property rights and those of other property owners in the redevelopment area, despite the fact that the Meccas and several other owners in the area are actively constructing and/or developing a substantial portion of the redevelopment area in accordance with the existing redevelopment plan.”
In regards to the November 2017 JCRA meeting where the designated redeveloper’s plans were revealed, the lawsuit claimed the owners of the properties were not “invited by the JCRA to participate in this presentation by BRL [Bates Redevelopment, LLC], nor given notice despite the enormous impact on their property interests.”
Despite the apparent contention between the stakeholders in the redevelopment of the Bates Street properties, JCRA records indicate that a deal has now been reached. During the JCRA Board of Commissioners’ March 26 meeting, a resolution was approved by all present board members that calls for officially designating Mecca Realty Development, LLC, an affiliate of Mecca Realty Properties, as the sub-redeveloper of the 21 tracts that make up the site.
The resolution states that back in November 2018, Mecca Realty Redevelopment applied to the JCRA to enter into a sub-redeveloper agreement with JCRA and Bates Redevelopment, LLC. As part of the application, Mecca Realty Development mentioned that they intended to use the sub-redeveloper designation to construct a project with 269 units, retail space, and parking.
As part of the resolution, Mecca Realty Redevelopment is being designated as the sub-redeveloper “on the condition that its claims are dismissed as to all defendants, with prejudice” in regards to the lawsuit. Bates Redevelopment, LLC, Mecca Realty Development, LLC, and the JCRA are expected to enter into an official sub-redeveloper agreement within 90 days after the resolution was adopted.
The JCRA is no stranger to issues involving property rights, likely in part because the agency’s Board of Commissioners regularly designates companies as redevelopers of properties that they do not own.
For instance, last year, the board designated Landmark Developers as the redeveloper of a property in Bergen-Lafayette that is owned by New Jersey Transit (NJT) in order to construct a hotel, even though NJT told Jersey Digs at the time that the company had not even contacted them about redeveloping the site.
Additionally, in 2017, the board designated a subsidiary of New Jersey Community Capital (NJCC) as the redeveloper of a building on Palisade Avenue in The Heights in order to create a complex called the Artist HUB and Residences. Despite the designation, another firm owned the property. After there was no progress at the site of NJCC’s proposed development, the Board of Commissioners approved a resolution more than a year later to try to have the JCRA acquire the property for $630,000, either through a negotiated purchase or even eminent domain.