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Buyer Signs Purchase Agreement for Alcatel-Lucent Property in Holmdel [VIDEO]

Stunning announcement made before huge crowd at public meeting Thursday at the Senior/Community Center.

Alcatel-Lucent says it has signed a purchase agreement with Elsie Sterling Oversight LLC for a mixed-use plan at its huge property on Crawfords Corner Road in Holmdel -- welcome news for a township hurting for revenue.

Mayor Patrick Impreveduto broke the news to more than 200 residents who had turned out to a public meeting on Thursday at the Senior/Community Center, many of whom came prepared to spar over unpopular legislation authorizing the sale of treasured open space to close a $2.5 million budget gap.

"This is the first time Lucent has hard money down," said Mayor Patrick Impreveduto. "They are very serious buyers. This deal is done. I'm very pleased it is done. And it is going to be done before the end of the year.

He added, "Lucent is going to go back on our tax rolls by the end of the year." The news was applauded.

But he quickly noted its contribution would not come soon enough to fix the 2012 fiscal crisis. Despite an eleventh hour discovery of $700,000 in additional surplus found as a result of doing the full accounting analysis of last year's operation, and a $400,000 payment owed to the municipality by the Holmdel Board of Education for bonding of Roggy Field -- residents could still expect a tax increase within the two percent cap.

The mayor said Holmdel officials have not met Elsie Sterling Howard, who he said was a philanthropist based in Miami, Fl. Through a quick Internet search, he said he learned she is the executive director of the The Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority, and she is married to a real estate attorney. She has also been connected to the University of Pennsylvania as an alumni trustee.

Alcatel-Lucent spokesperson Mary Ward, reached on email, confirmed the news moments later.

"Yes, I am pleased to be able to confirm that we have signed a purchase agreement with Elsie Sterling Oversight LLC," said Ward. "The buyer is in the early stages of their due diligence, but my understanding is that they are looking at a mixed use plan."

According to the mayor, the buyers have examined Holmdel's redevelopment plan and REVA recommendation report and can work within its framework.

In its best years, the 472 acre property, known locally as "Bell Labs" provided high-paying, prestigious technical jobs to the local workforce. Its historic role in telecom invention and discovery, the serene landscaped property and architecturally distinguished building and water tower are appreciated in Holmdel.

But years after the plant's closure, the township is still smarting over its dwindling contribution to the tax rolls. At the height of its assessed value in 1997, the property contributed $4.5 million in property taxes -- $600,000 of that amount went towards the municipal budget.  Today, the vacated Alcatel-Lucent's property generates just $525,000 in property taxes -- with $78,300 of that going towards the municipal budget, an 83% reduction.

Legislation to sell a 12-acre portion of the 103-acre Cross Farm to an athletic facility was dropped from the agenda to the relief of many who came to oppose it.

But an ordinance authorizing the potential sale of the township's three wooded lots on Plum Lane was approved by a vote of 4 to 1. Committeeman Larry Fink voted no, calling the Plum Lane property a much needed park in the most densely populated section of Holmdel.

Also, the mayor said there would be no referendum in the spring on a tax levy increase exceeding the two percent cap. "Your taxes will be within the two percent we have to go by, to abide by the law," he said.

Correction Feb. 24: Township officials identified $700,000 in surplus to reduce the $2.5 million deficit down to $1.8 million. An earlier version of this story said they had identified $1.8 million in savings.

Steve Strickland February 26, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Yes, let's stop the blame games (right after taking your shot at Fink). Note that the Republicans have controlled the TC for the last 6 years (and all but a few of the last 20). Fink has mostly been on the losing end of 4-1 and 3-2 votes. Given this, I'm curious about the mysterious power that has enabled him to cause all of our woes.
Steve Strickland February 26, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Please. At this point, we should fear that Impreveduto might say "The hell with this; I don't need the aggravation" and step down. I'm sure that the entire TC is working as hard as they can at this very complex problem. The high-level budget runs to almost 200 pages; a fully detailed budget would probably be 10 time that size. And not include all the history, constraints, and side information needed to understand it. Not to say that more savings don't exist. But don't underestimate the difficulty of finding them. The real problem is that steps weren't taken years ago. Now we're like someone facing a mandatory weight-loss deadline who's failed to diet and is now contemplating cutting off their foot to make weight---and maybe the other foot next year. And in what can only be called a masterstroke of timing, the dominant TC person over this period has decamped to Freehold.
Robert Way February 26, 2012 at 12:49 AM
The "mixed-use" plan definitely calls for a lot of transparency and attention paid to it. Once it is zoned as such, how much influence can we as citizens or the Municipal bodies have on what is built. Not sure if it does the ratable base any good to drop mixed use in with some amount of commercial developed with "lab-rat communities" built on top of them to create a nifty little new-urbanism community unto itself on the Lucent Tract.
Jennifer February 27, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Elsie Sterling Howard, of Miami, is obviously a very accomplished person, and has held many high-level positions in Miami and at the university of Pennsylvania. What the heck she is doing turning into a real estate developer in Holmdel is a mystery to me. Her husband, a real estate lawyer, is the only clear link to real estate at all. No links to Holmdel. Don't really care if the project is in our best interest as a town, but I do think the current tempest over the $400 tax increase has made people more willing to grasp at any ray of hope. I am only gathering intelligence at this poin, and all I have been able to come up with so far is the website of MBI project management , which already lists Bell Labs, with a nice slide show. It says in part, " the existing building and out builds occupy 120 acres, leaving 350 acres open to development" . I have to say I am a wee bit frightened by that, especially since the entire tract is currently open to sewering. I am still HOPING for - some retail? A convention center? ( Mrs. Howard was the head of the Miami convention center and tourist authority). Really, I was hoping for a sports complex. Hockey, indoor tennis, aquatic center, maybe baseball or soccer indoor training facilities.....I hope she investigates and maybe does some market research in the actual community, not on likes or dislikes but rather on " what would you pay for in this town that you are already paying for in some other town?" Wow, rambling, sorry
Jennifer February 27, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Also - I don't mean that I " don't care if it is in the best interest of the town", I mean, that if it IS in our best interest, then I don't really care how or why Mrs. ESH ended up here. It is just not yet clear or obvious.

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