PLEASANTVILLE — City officials say construction on the first phase of an $150 million City Center redevelopment project is expected to start in spring — a year and a half behind schedule.
Phase I, a $55 million section called “The District,” will include 300 condominium rental units and 20,000 square feet of retail space bordered by Second and Main streets and Washington and Milan avenues. Construction of this phase is expected to take about two years once work begins.
Officials originally planned to begin construction by fall 2011. Nearly a year later, ground is still unbroken.
“The first estimate was overly ambitious,” said Jacqueline Amado-Belton, director of economic and industrial development for the city’s Urban Enterprise Zone. “Developers like to be overly ambitious, but the city did not acquire full site control until July.”
Construction is expected to begin in spring 2013, Amado-Belton said.
“The commercial and residential acquisitions and relocations for the entire 6.9-acre block are complete, as are all of the environmental testing and construction permitting,” she said. “That block is ready to start construction any day.”
Amado-Belton said the developer — Monmouth County-based River Development LLC — is in the process of obtaining final financial approvals.
“The city and the developer will then be negotiating a financial agreement and establish a new project schedule,” she said.
When completed, the three-phase City Center Project is expected to transform 32 acres of land — bordered by Second Street, Franklin Boulevard, Milan Avenue and Old Turnpike — into a thriving commercial and residential neighborhood. City officials have repeatedly said they hope the project will inspire a renaissance of sorts in the city, which was designated an “area in need of rehabilitation” under the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law in 1995.
Mayor Jesse Tweedle Sr. admitted he was frustrated by the delay.
“Shovels should have been in the ground months ago,” said Tweedle, who announced in his annual State of the City address in January that construction would start by late spring. “Was I frustrated? Yes. Am I still frustrated? Yes. But I feel much less frustrated now that I know that it’s going to happen. And that’s the God’s honest truth.”
Tweedle said that businesses have been calling him for months asking about the project’s status, which only intensified his concerns.
“My staff knows I’m frustrated. I wanted solid answers on when things were going to get started, not knee-jerk answers to make me feel better. I needed truthful answers,” he said.
But now that the city finally has full site control, Tweedle said, things are looking good again. And once construction of Phase I is under way, he said, the city will be able to move forward with the other phases.
“We are still making sure to cross every T and dot every I, and making sure that everything is lined up with the financial aspects of it. But it’s definitely going to happen,” Tweedle said. “There’s too much commitment already involved for this to go backwards.”
Contact Robert Spahr:
Follow Rob Spahr on Twitter @TheRobSpahr