North Bergen township officials have narrowed down the choices of possible development companies to three firms that have a plan to transform a 10-block area of Tonnelle Avenue into a new retail store location. The three development firms are Forest City/TREECO of Englewood, Paul Schmidt Enterprises of Englewood and The Related Companies of New York and Fort Lee. Each company has submitted a proposal to the township to redevelop the area on the western side of Tonnelle Avenue, between 70th and 80th streets, currently occupied by a Pathmark supermarket. The Pathmark eventually will vacate the premises. The area calls for 200,000 to 300,000 square feet of retail shopping space, as well as a parking lot that will hold approximately 800 vehicles. Township officials are also asking the possible developers to come up with plans that will enable the new shopping district to coexist with the Lowe’s Home Improvement Center, which is slated to be built at the site of the former Evan-Picone headquarters directly adjacent to the proposed development site. Demolition of the Evan-Picone factory continued this week, with construction of the Lowe’s store to begin shortly thereafter. Lowe’s plans to have its new store open in time for the Christmas holidays. The hope is that the new development stores will feature complimentary stores to Lowe’s, not any in direct competition, like Home Depot, for example. All three of the presented proposals are now under review by Burgos Associates, the township’s planning consultant. After review, the proposals will more than likely be turned over to the North Bergen Planning Board for review prior to the next scheduled meeting on August 8. If the Planning Board recommends one of the proposals over another, then that proposal could very well be turned over to the township’s Board of Commissioners in time for their scheduled meeting on August 9. Forest City/TREECO has to be considered the front-runner to be chosen. After all, the Englewood-based firm, headed by Fred Fish and Bruce Ratner, was selected by the township to do the revitalization and restoration of the Columbia Park shopping center on Kennedy Boulevard. The Columbia Park project, which opened last November, was a gigantic success for the township, considering that the project brought in several major nationwide retail chains, like Staples and Party City, into the facility. And the township had previously selected Forest City/TREECO to handle the revitalization of Tonnelle Avenue. At the time, the plans included the site of the Evan-Picone factory. However, the owners of the Evan-Picone building struck a deal with the Lowe’s Home Improvement Center to tear down the structure and build a new store. Once that deal was struck, the township then moved to re-open the search and have all possible developers present new proposals, only on a smaller site, without the land which housed the Evan-Picone building. The three developers then stepped forward with proposals, and now the issue is in the hands of both the township’s Planning Board and subsequently, the township’s Board of Commissioners. Township administrator Joseph Auriemma has stated in the past that all three development companies are highly respected and display solid retail development records. Fish was out of the country on business and was unavailable for comment at press time.