Centuria Project Up For Auction?


I've been busy improving the site and I can't believe I missed this listing yesterday. A notice of sale was issued for a property in Fort Lee, NJ with a judgment of $31,342,684.70. The address of the property is a fairly non descript "Vacant Land Along Lemoine Ave."

I won't be able to verify it until Monday, but the only property I can think of that it could possibly be is the 16 acre plot of land near the George Washington Bridge on Lemoine Ave in Fort Lee that was supposed to be the future home of the Centuria Project.

Update: It is indeed the Centuria Project that is being foreclosed. The plaintiff in the case is TDC Fort Lee, LCC which I believe is a company set up by Tucker Development Corp to invest in the project. Tucker Development corporation is a commercial real estate firm from Chicago, IL that was going to invest up to $1.5 billion in the Centuria Project. In May 2008, they put out a press release that they purchased a $29 million loan from an affiliate of Principal Financial that was secured by a portion of the development. That's probably the loan in question that is being foreclosed on. The property came up again this time with a $60 million dollar judgment. There was a winning bid of $1,000,100 by Fort Lee Lemoine Avenue Acquisitions, LLC.

The Centuria Project was supposed to be a mixed use development that would build over 1.7 million square feet of residential, retail, office and hotel space in downtown Fort Lee. For over 35 years, the property has been vacant and the project was an important part of Fort Lee's redevelopment plans.

Since 2003, the only thing that ever developed on the site was a fence and a sales office. Town & Country ran into problems early on with contaminated soil from a previous dry cleaning business on the site. Before the foundation could even be dug, the tigtening credit markets made find financing for such a project difficult, if not impossible.

Driving through Fort Lee, you see many signs for vacant storefronts and office space. The slowing residential market and current abbundance of luxury highrises probably made the project seem unviable.

Back in May 2008, Town & Country Developers announced they had engaged the services of Cushman & Wakefield's Metropolitan Area Capital Markets Group to sell the project for $1 billion. According to the various news articles on the project, Town & Country had secured around $80 million in financing for the project. If this foreclosure takes precedent over the other loans secured by the property, it could be a great deal for the next developer but bad news for the other lenders.

In June 2008, Town & Country was stripped of it's rights to develop the property it bought for $45 million in 2003, because it was behind $878,000 in taxes and fees. Town & Country seemed to also have another agreement with the Borough of Fort Lee to be the approved redeveloper for the Borough, and that status was also going to be revoked. At the same time, one of Town & Country's lenders began foreclosure proceedings in which the Borough of Fort Lee was also a named defendant. That's likely the loan associated with this notice of sale.

The property has quite a history. It used to have one and two family homes that were built after World War I and some stores and a movie theater along Lemoine Ave. Most development proposals since included a movie theater. With Fort Lee's rich history in film making, it's very strange for the Borough not to have a movie theater.

Investors Funding Corporation started buying up and demolishing all the properties in the 70's. They ran into problems when serveral officers of Investors Funding were convicted of attempting to bribe the Mayor of Fort Lee in order to obtain the approvals necessary to build the proposed project.

In 1980, Harry B. Helmsley started looking to acquire the property and after purchasing it proposed a mixed residential/office project in 1985 which was never built. By 1990, Helmsley had received approval from the town, but not from the county.

Quite a troubled history for a project considered to be one of the prime commercial real estate plots in the north east.


Comments:

Very interesting property history. Also interesting was looking at the outcome of past sheriff's sales from 2008&2009. I would like to compare them to auctions in 2000-2007,particularly the boom period. Would you or the Bergen Co. Sheriff have that info available? Thank you for what you've compiled on this site-good reading.

Posted by don on February 23, 2009 at 08:31 PM EST #

I.m realtor,
Please send me additional information.
thanks,

Kenny No

Posted by kenny No on December 20, 2009 at 04:39 PM EST #

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