After months of planning and efforts to gain public approval, the Hackensack City Council passed Wednesday a Main Street Rehabilitation Plan to spur economic development and infrastructure improvements along the city’s 39-block Main Street corridor.
“There’s an awful lot of elation now that the plan has been approved, but this is not something that will happen overnight,” said Stephen Lo Iacono, Hackensack’s city manager. “The biggest thing we have to do now is reach out to the development community to make developers (aware) of what’s going on. We need to get the message out there that we’re a much more developer-friendly community than we have been in the past.”
Lo Iacono said four developers in the region already have contacted the city for more information on the projects, which involve bringing new businesses and residences into vacant space and improving roadways, sidewalks and storefronts.
“I don’t think we’ll make any efforts to reach out nationwide, because we have a wealth of developers in this area, and some located here in Hackensack fit the bill to do this development,” Lo Iacono said. “A local developer may be more appropriate, because we’re not looking to change the identity or integrity of the city. We still want to be recognizable as Hackensack.”
While Lo Iacono said a “good part of the zoning regulation problems with design standards” that had halted development projects in the past have been streamlined in the plan, he said procedural issues with the permitting process could still block developers from getting on board with rehabilitation efforts.
“Currently, a developer who wants to do substantial development has to spend an awful lot of money in order to make an application and to get in front of the zoning board. Developers often did all that and then were denied, and that has a chilling effect on someone coming in and wanting to do a project,” Lo Iacono said. “It’s hard for someone to have spent a ton of money and then not see something from it. We’re now in the process of trying to change those requirements to make it easier for developers to get in front of the board and present a concept.”
In a statement, city planner Francis Reiner said before the plan was enacted, a statewide “movement towards mixed-use urban environments … (wasn’t) feasible in Hackensack.”
“Hackensack is now well positioned to capitalize on the movements that revitalized Morristown, Hoboken, and other similar urban areas into thriving metropolises,” Reiner said. “With its access to mass transit, major thoroughfares and employers like Bergen County and the Hackensack University Medical Center, I think we will see real progress on Main Street that will benefit the entire city.”