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The Modern
Fort Lee, N.J.

Landscape Architecture by Melillo + Bauer Associates, Inc.


'The Modern' brings modern residential tower living to historic Fort Lee, N.J. The design of the 1.5-acre rooftop amenity deck for the North Tower juxtaposes communal dining and informal lounge seating areas with the Children's Play Environment. Melillo + Bauer had to consider not only the organization of the amenity spaces, but also the view from the residences.

Located just a stone's throw from the George Washington Bridge and overlooking the Hudson River, The Modern is an iconic new residential community and public space for the borough of Fort Lee, N.J. (pop. 35,345). Fort Lee is just across the Hudson from upper Manhattan. The 7-acre site, which sat vacant for 40 years, is the eastern half of a designated redevelopment area in Fort Lee. At its core the Modern will have a 2-acre public park, flanked by two 47-story high-rise residential towers, both with expansive rooftop amenity decks atop structured parking. The North Tower of the Modern, the first of the two towers to be constructed, had its grand opening in the fall of 2014. The South Tower is now under construction and completion is expected in 2017. The park construction will follow the completion of the South Tower.


'The Modern' is two 47-story high-rise residential towers in Fort Lee, N.J. with rooftop amenity decks atop structured parking, plus a 2-acre public park. This 7-acre site sat vacant for 40 years. The North Tower is complete, and construction on the South Tower should finish this year.

Melillo + Bauer Associates, Inc. had the task of creating the master plan for the park, streetscape and rooftop amenity decks. The site certainly had its challenges: a grade change from east to west as much as 30 feet, and a great deal of rock outcroppings and bedrock indigenous to the New Jersey Palisades. In addition, its entrance is on one of the most travelled roadways in northern New Jersey - the direct approach route to the George Washington Bridge (you've heard of "Bridgegate").


Sculpted rock mimics the indigenous rock of the site and Palisades region. The grade change was a design element to buffer the serene and elegant outdoor lobby space from the nearby heavily traveled Park Avenue. The pondless water feature (Roman Fountains) tumbles down the rock outcropping, and is visible only from within the space adjacent to the North Tower's lobby entrance. Washed stone at the base of the building is meant to receive rainwater that washes down the tower's 47-story glass façade.

Melillo + Bauer designed the arrival court for each tower to create a space removed from the adjacent traffic and focused on the lobby entrances. Each of the two arrival courts features a central in-ground fountain, its water jets illuminated at night by color changing LEDs. Sculpted rock outcroppings and a highly detailed landscape of birches, white pines, hydrangea, rhododendron and perennials screen the outdoor Lobby Garden from the heavily travelled Park Avenue roadway. Within the rock formations is a pondless waterfall, a serene visual enhancement for the outdoor lobby.


The arrival court and lobby entrance feature sandstone, granite and concrete pavers (Unilock). The bands within the entry plaza reflect the Tower's soaring column lines.

In the design of the amenity roof decks, Melillo + Bauer considered not only the organization of the various amenity spaces, but also the view from the residences above. The North Tower's 1.5-acre rooftop amenity deck exhibits bold geometry with its broad wood boardwalk projecting the Tower's angular facade onto the ground plane, and a sweeping curved walkway cutting through this angular geometry to frame the pool and sun deck.


The Modern residents have the convenience of a playground with contemporary pieces and poured-in-place soft surfacing. The vivid blue striping adds additional geometric patterns to the roof deck.

The flush infinity-edge pool is oriented east to the Hudson River and upper Manhattan. It features a shallow sun-shelf for lounging, a conversation pool and a deep-water area for lap swimming, all with spectacular views of the river and skyline. The pool's highly detailed tile pattern is an abstract mosaic in multiple shades of blue. A custom trellis and fabric structures provide desirable shade as well as a blast of color in the landscape.


The 450 sq. ft. LED screen transforms what would otherwise be a blank wall of the northern stair tower into an entertainment amenity. The George Washington Bridge stands out in the background. (Remember 'Bridgegate', the purported collusion of political appointees of N.J. Gov. Chris Christie to close lanes to the GWB during the morning rush hour to back up traffic in Fort Lee? Bridegate was allegedly meant to punish the Fort Lee mayor for not supporting Christie's reelection.)

Numerous gathering spaces feature lounge seating, game tables, grilling stations and communal dining tables, allowing the Modern's residents a great variety of passive recreational amenities. In addition, smaller, individual grilling and dining spaces afford residents the opportunity for a more intimate, private dining experience.



The sun deck surrounding the pool is made of concrete pavers on pedestals. Deciduous shade trees, fabric covered pergolas and umbrellas bring shade to the deck. The infinity-edge pool features zero-entry access with a continuous flush gutter system. From the furnished sun-shelf there are views of the Hudson River and upper Manhattan.

A direct extension of the interior playroom and activity space is the Children's Play Environment, a popular destination for the young residents. It features contemporary play elements and colorful graphic safety surfacing.

At the northwest corner of the roof deck, an expansive natural lawn is the setting for open, informal play. Movies and televised sporting events are projected from a 450 sq. ft. LED screen at the far end of the lawn panel. Residents spread out on the lawn, bringing blankets and lawn chairs, along with picnic baskets to enjoy the evening. The south edge of the lawn offers three terraces to provide more intimate gathering spaces, with lounge seating centered around fire tables. For more active recreation, there is a full-size basketball court, which is also used for volleyball games.

The South Tower is currently under construction, and features similar elements as on the North Tower amenity deck. There is also a fanciful water play space and a fire lounge designed to create additional social opportunities for the residents of both towers.

Along the streetscape of the South Tower is a public theater and retail shops. An exterior plaza immediately in front of the theater celebrates Fort Lee as the birthplace of the film industry, and will create a dynamic and active streetscape. Melillo + Bauer collaborated with the Borough of Fort Lee to develop the streetscape standards, including the pavements, tree grates and street furniture to be used throughout the downtown. Melillo + Bauer also collaborated with local 5th grade students to facilitate a design competition for themed streetscape benches, and the detailing and fabrication of the winning student-designed.



Along the stamped concrete walkway are sculptural lighting fixtures (Hess America) and individual precast concrete dining areas. Each dining niche has a grill, a dining table and a contemporary-style pergola (Structural Pergola Systems) with a fabric shade element. The sense of privacy for each individual dinning space will be enhanced as the rose hedges grow taller and fuller.

The park at The Modern is the centerpiece of the master plan. Sculpted landforms frame views and provide a decided contrast to the surrounding urban layout. Blasted rock from the site is being used in part to create the landforms. A restaurant at the park's east end will feature a dining terrace overlooking a central pond and rain garden. A recirculating stream, water wall and sculpted rock features will provide a stunning visual amenity. The water features are also a large part of the site's stormwater management strategy, as they will detain a substantial quantity of stormwater runoff.


As seen from the North Tower and reflected in its glass facade, the outdoor spaces have a bold, curving geometry of stamped and colored concrete and ipe decking. The ipe decking and pavers are supported on pedestals.

A concession kiosk and plaza at the park's west end will be a visual gateway that offers refreshments and dining for park visitors. Pedestrian circulation sweeps through a landscape of mature trees, meadow and rock outcroppings. The perimeter evergreen plantings will screen the parking structures and help to define the outdoor space.

Melillo + Bauer Associates, Inc., has designed many rooftop amenity spaces along the Hudson River from Fort Lee to Jersey City. The Modern is certainly one of the most expansive, recognizable and admired projects in the design portfolio. It is unquestionably a dramatic new addition to the Borough of Fort Lee and a catalyst for redevelopment in the region.


Fort Lee, N.J.--a Bit of Ye'Olde History
In July 1776, Gen. Washington, in retreat, ordered a fort built on a bluff on the western palisades of the Hudson River, across the river from Fort Washington in northern Manhattan, creating batteries on either side of the Hudson to stop the British Navy from navigating the river. That effort failed. Fort Lee and its troops were captured Nov. 16, 1776, a dark moment of the Revolutionary War.

Of course it all worked out. The French Navy defeated the British Fleet at the Battle of the Chesapeake, and kept Gen. Cornwallis' troops in Yorktown, Va. from escaping by boat. Subsequent bombardments by the Americans and French forced the surrender of Cornwallis' army of 7,000 men on Oct. 19, 1781. The British Fleet sailed out of New York Harbor to aid the army, but it was too late. Four months later, on February 27, 1782, the British Parliament voted to end the war and seek peace. Today, that history is on display at the Fort Lee Museum in Monument Park.

Note: Fort Lee, N.J. is also the birthplace of motion pictures. Many of the early film studios and film locales were here. In 1907, Thomas Edison filmed a "cliff hanger" on the Fort Lee Palisades.


Project Team
Client: SJP Residential Properties
Landscape Architect: Melillo + Bauer Associates
Architect: Elkus Manfredi Architects, Boston
Civil Engineer: PS+S Integrated Services
Structural Engineer: DiSimone Consulting Engineers
MEP/FP Engineer: Cosentini Associates, Inc.
General Contractor: AJD Construction
Landscape Contractor: Let It Grow
Pool Contractor: Chester Pools

Select Manufacturers
Lighting: Hess America
Pavers: Unilock
Trellises: Structural Pergola Systems
Water Features: Roman Fountains

As seen in LASN magazine, February 2017.

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June 18, 2019, 6:42 pm PDT

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