A fresh lawsuit looks like it will be the final nail in the coffin for a long-stalled hotel development as the city is looking to gain control of a prominent parcel just a stone’s throw from Liberty State Park.
On January 6, the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency (JCRA) filed a complaint in Hudson County court against an entity named Statue of Liberty Harbor North Redevelopment Urban Renewal LLC. The company owns a 15,300-square-foot property with an address of 155 Luis Munoz Marin Boulevard, also known as 20 Avenue E.
The land is located along a relatively new street called South Cove and sandwiched between the two towers of the Vantage development. The JCRA transferred ownership of the land to Liberty Harbor North Redevelopment Urban Renewal way back in October 2008 with the intent of facilitating a hotel at the property.
Tramz Hotels, under a franchise agreement with Marriott, eventually announced their intentions to build a ground-up hotel in 2014. The 16-story building was set to feature 276 rooms, a full-service restaurant, bar and lounge, banquet rooms, and a fitness center that hoped to “replicate the Marriott Marquis in Times Square” per reporting from the Jersey Journal.
The hotel even obtained a $10.7 million refinancing loan through Silver Arch Capital Partners in 2016, but the project never moved forward. The JCRA says in their lawsuit that the developers entered into an amended agreement that would scale the project back to a 12-story, 150 room AC Hotels by Marriott in 2017, but defaulted on that deal later in the year.
The court filing claims that a mortgage company eventually commenced foreclosure proceedings against the hotel developers in November 2018. The developers allegedly cut off all contact with the JCRA before a final foreclosure judgment was entered in August 2019, with the company filing a voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October.
The JCRA claims that the redevelopment agreement allows them to take possession of the property if the developer defaults on their obligations. Besides their failure to redevelop the land, the lawsuit claims the company failed to satisfy their job creation obligations, did not maintain a contemplated joint partnership venture, fell behind on their real estate taxes, and didn’t notify the JCRA about their bankruptcy proceedings.
The complaint additionally says that the company failed to reimburse a subsidiary of Fisher Development Associates for a share of costs in infrastructure and public improvements that were made at the property, which are estimated at about $1.4 million.
The JCRA is seeking damages for breach of contract and claims that the hotel developers were “unjustly enriched by retaining title to the Property after breaching the [redevelopment agreement].” The lawsuit is seeking an order directing the company to re-convey the property’s title to the JCRA.
The court has not set a date for any hearings on the lawsuit and it is unclear what future plans could emerge to revitalize the property if the JCRA is victorious in obtaining control of the land.