He came here as a teenager and took to Bayonne immediately, forging not only a successful construction and development business but also energizing the city’s revitalization. He’s been a calm presence in the eye of the storm as he attempts to shape the future of a city in decline.
Lance Lucarelli, 47, of The L Group, feels Bayonne has more promise than Jersey City and Hoboken had two decades ago.
Many residents didn’t know who he was until this summer, when dozens of uptown residents protested his 9-story mixed-use building earmarked for the longtime site of Resnick’s Hardware on Broadway and 46th Street. The residents opposed to his plans crowded two consecutive City Council meetings until early morning as dozens spoke against the height of the project. They circulated a petition they said was signed by people all over the city and placed an advertisement opposing the project.
A handful more learned of him when they attended a Planning Board meeting during which a project of his and fellow developer John Cali was approved for construction. The 22-story residential tower will be Bayonne’s largest building. “The town is at a pivotal point right now,” he said. “We need to go up, not down.”
His seven-story Park Bayonne, at 44th Street and Kennedy Boulevard, is expected to be completed next month.
Rather than build on the city’s perimeters, such as at the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor or downtown by the Bayonne Bridge, Lucarelli feels construction should be done on the inside of the city. He feels developments should build on the city’s main thoroughfares, such as Kennedy Boulevard and Broadway.
“I believe Broadway is the savior to Bayonne, not the outer, surrounding edges,” he said. “And I hope other developers come to Broadway and follow suit.”
Lucarelli believes special emphasis should be put on building “Class A” retail in the city, with 15-to-20-foot interior height and a depth of 70 to 100 feet, with street-level parking in back.
“This way you get the tenant,” he said. “Without giving the tenants the parking, they’re not coming.”
The L Group offices on Church Lane feature a beat-up mini-refrigerator, yellowed microwave oven, an assortment of construction materials, and a couch. Framed photos from a hair salon that was once here hang on the walls. Wall-mounted maps, sketched plans, and real-estate guides surround a large conference table.
He begins many sentences with “Look at this” or “Watch this” when he speaks about the good things he thinks he can do for Bayonne and what he thinks it can become.
Lucarelli arrives at 5:30 on weekday mornings but gives himself a break on weekends, arriving after 6:30. He works well into the evening.
But he always makes time for his sons’ sports, running from the office to the fields and then back to the office. Living and working in Bayonne gives him the flexibility to be there for Lance, 15, Dane, 13, and Cole, 8.
Lucarelli enjoys watching baseball, football, and basketball. He skis, snowmobiles, and surfs.
“You have to dream a little to make great things.” – Lance Lucarelli
Hudson County roots
Lucarelli was born at Margaret Hague Hospital in Jersey City, “in the Frank Sinatra Suite, they tell me.” His family moved to the Jersey Shore after he was born.
He lived in Elberon, a section of Long Branch, and then Ocean Township, but learned the construction trade on Hudson County sites, where his father and grandfather were working during his grade-school days.
At age 17, he dated a Bayonne girl. That didn’t work out, but in 1997, he met Tara, another Bayonne woman. They married in 1998 and settled in Bayonne.
“I want to stay where I am,” she told him. So they did. And they never left.
Bayonne renaissance coming
John Cali, though no longer affiliated with the firm, is a member of the family who built Mack-Cali into one of the most successful commercial and residential real-estate companies in the country. He applauds Lucarelli’s vision for Bayonne and his drive to realize that vision.
“He has knowledge of Hudson County real estate, hands-on construction experience, and an aptitude for creative planning,” Cali said. “These things, along with his positive attitude and energy, make him an effective planner and developer.”
Lucarelli believes that other developers, who can assist in the city’s rejuvenation, are watching the risks he is taking to see if he is successful. If he is, he feels there will be a domino effect.
He sees updated housing stock, new retail businesses, and more people in the city as key to its revival.
“People in development were coming thinking Bayonne is dead, and now they think it’s changing,” he said.
Seeing himself as a pioneer, not a savior, he says, “You have to dream a little to make great things.”
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.