Nearly 10 years after the old K-Mart shopping plaza on Tonnelle Avenue was declared an area “in need of redevelopment,” the final obstacles in turning the area into a new Home Depot home improvement store were removed. The owners of a liquor store and a fast food franchise have decided to close up and relocate.
Before that, three other stores – a K-Mart department store, a Marshall’s department store, and a private bedding store – had closed by reaching financial relocation agreements with Shiva Properties of Yonkers, N.Y., the owner of the land. So that just left a Wendy’s and Tonnelle Liquors as the lone businesses operating at the site. Larry Wainstein, the owner of Tonnelle Liquors and the vice-chairman of the Union City Urban Enterprise Zone, was not ready to relinquish the site at first. He filed several lawsuits, calling the township’s redevelopment deal unconstitutional.
He didn’t want to relocate, saying that it took six years to develop his business into one of the top 10 liquor stores in the state.
“I don’t want to go,” Wainstein said. “I now have one of the top 10 grossing liquor stores in New Jersey, according to my wholesalers. It’s going to be very difficult to find a place that’s suitable, with parking space and store space. I’m restricted by ordinance that I can’t be within 750 feet of another liquor store. I also have a good check cashing business. In that law, I can’t be within 2,500 feet in radius of another check casher. It’s going to be very difficult to find another location.”
After negotiations took place between Wainstein and the Shiva Properties people, the two reached a relocation settlement. Terms of that settlement have not been disclosed. With the township’s help, Wainstein found a new location on 85th and Tonnelle Avenue. His application to transfer the liquor license to the new location was approved by the township’s Alcohol Beverage Control board Tuesday night.
Tonnelle Liquors was open for business at its new location Wednesday afternoon.
Hope Depot starts Wainstein’s departure has now paved the way for the new developers, Related Retail of New York, to begin demolition of the site and begin the process to build a Home Depot there.
“They said they were going to demolish the property as soon as they moved out,” Township Administrator Chris Pianese said. “The Home Depot people have put an aggressive time line in place. They want to be open by November, so they’re ready to go now.”
Back in 1999, following state laws for redevelopment, the township designated the entire area, from 83rd Street through 69th Street, along Tonnelle Avenue, as the area in need of redevelopment.
In accordance with the state laws, a municipality can choose struggling or underutilized areas and reconfigure them into redevelopment zones. The municipality can then use its powers of eminent domain to purchase the properties by paying a fair market price and then redeveloping the area.
There was a battle between the Shiva Properties and Related Retail about the selling price of the property. Related Retail, which first earned the right to build an extensive shopping center on the site, only to have those plans change to strictly a Home Depot, believed it should pay the 1999 market price of $11 million.
Shiva Properties, which is represented by Hoboken-based attorney John Curley, believed that it should receive the current market price, approximately $20 million.
That discrepancy in the selling price also stalled the process for nearly two years.
“It’s obviously been a long ordeal,” Pianese said. “Now, it’s over. We can now focus on the other end of Tonnelle, near the APA site.”
The old APA Trucking Company location is being considered for other commercial development, like Wal-Mart or Costco.
“Although it took a long time, we’re glad to be moving forward,” Pianese said.
The transformation to a Home Depot (which oddly will be right next door to an existing Lowe’s Home Improvement Center) will also mean a boom for the North Bergen tax ratable base. Since the property’s selling price was somewhere in the vicinity of $20 million, North Bergen stands to double the tax income it was receiving from the land, from $400,000 to $800,000 annually.
“We’ll get that on the tax rolls for 2007,” Pianese said. “We’re just glad to finally turn the page.”