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Englewood launches final phase of major development program.

Construction is about to begin on a 31,000 square-foot mixed-use building that is the linchpin in the City of Englewood, NJ's revitalization of the central business district's west side.

City officials have projected that development of the site by Group USA will be the catalyst for additional projects. Since the announcement of the project during the summer, the city has been in discussions about development of other sites.

The city's decade-long program to rejuvenate the "wrong side of the tracks" is unparalleled in its comprehensive approach to attacking problems in both the residential and commercial areas. Beginning with the creation of one of the state's first Special Improvement Districts (SID) in 1987, the city has combined infrastructure work with housing rehab and economic development.

"We knew that the future of the residential and commercial areas were inextricably intertwined, and we had to take a comprehensive approach in the West Palisade Avenue corridor, which was plagued by high commercial vacancy rates, crime and drug use," said City Manager Robert L. Benecke. "With our decisive action, we are succeeding."

Demolition of the run-down buildings on the West Palisade Avenue property that is being developed by Group USA, a national women's apparel retailer, has been completed. The new building will have 16,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor and 15,000 square feet of office space on the second. Mikasa Inc., one of the country's most successful china and glass giftware retailers, will also occupy retail space. Completion is scheduled for late 1999.

"We believed, and time is proving us right, that Englewood had to take action to get the private sector to react and join us to stimulate an economic retail revival," said Mayor Paul Fader. "The site has great strategic significance and from discussions we are having we are optimistic it will stimulate considerably more development."

"Group USA was impressed with the work Englewood has done to prepare West Palisade Avenue for economic development," said Mahir Amirsaleh, CEO of Group USA. "This move is highly beneficial for us. The potential customer base is extremely strong, we own the building and we are optimistic about the area's future growth and prosperity."

"We see enormous potential for our new store," said Dennis Marton, Mikasa's vice president for retail marketing. "The demographics are good, there is sufficient parking and we have a wonderful space in an area that is aggressively developing."

Englewood has made considerable progress over the past 10 years. By the end of 1996, more investment had been made in downtown Englewood than in all other New Jersey Main Street communities combined. Annual retail sales are over $400 million, higher than any Bergen County community except Paramus and Hackensack, both with major shopping malls. Yet, just about all of the growth, with one exception, has been on the east side of the business district. The goal of the current program is to bridge the gap and unify the two, until now, distinct areas.

The west side's major recent development is Palisades Court, a 114,000 square-foot shopping area with a large Shop Rite supermarket and national retailers such as Blockbuster, Sam Goody's and Khaki's. The site is located a block off West Palisade Avenue.

The development of the Group USA site is a joint effort by Englewood and Group USA, according to City Manager Benecke. The city is contributing more than $2 million in city and SID funds, which includes the purchase of the land and demolition of the existing buildings. In addition, the city is providing 28 parking spaces near the site and reconstructing or adding an additional 120 spaces within a 1.5-block radius. Improvements to sidewalks curbs and lighting will also be made.

Construction costs are estimated to exceed $2 million. Group USA will pay full property taxes.

This comprehensive approach and cooperative effort between the public entities, including the city, the Economic Development Corporation, the Special Improvement District and the private sector has marked the city's efforts over the past several years to rejuvenate the west side of the central business district.

Since creating the SID, the city has embarked on a carefully developed program of organizational, infrastructure, housing rehab and commercial development activities to drive the economic resurgence of the area.

Now, the city is implementing a 27-component plan to change the face and environment of the nearly quarter-mile stretch between Van Brunt Street and the monument at the head of West Palisade Avenue into a thriving addition to the central business district. Construction of the Group USA building is the first major step. Included in the program are street and lighting upgrades, significant increases in parking, and sites identified for development and commercial rehab. The city is continuing its promotional activities in the area and the coordinated design program.
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Title Annotation:Group USA will build a 31,000-sq-ft mixed-use building in Englewood, New Jersey
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Dec 23, 1998
Words:798
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