After a presentation from the mayor on Tuesday evening the city council approved a $5.25 million agreement with the Paterson Restoration Corporation (PRC) for a 15-year lease of the Ellison Street studio.
The city will pay $350,000 a year for 8,500 square feet of space at 75 Ellison Street. The space will house the city’s online library, the Extended Opportunity School for dropouts, and the public access studio.
Councilmen Alex Mendez and Kenneth Morris thought the square footage price of $40 was steep for the space. Economic development director Ruben Gomez told council members the “specialty” space at the studio costs as much as $60 per square feet, much more than regular office, retail, or warehouse space.
The city has an existing 15-year lease on the building with Dornoch-Ellison LLC, owned by developer Glen Fishman. There’s 5 years left on that agreement. The PRC is seeking to purchase the building from Fishman for $3.5 million.
The PRC, a quasi-governmental organization, will only purchase the building, if it has a lease agreement with the city.
“If we don’t become the owner, we’ll still have to pay five years of lease,” said mayor Jose “Joey” Torres. He said the city will still have to pay $1.5 million to the developer and at the end of the agreement have little to show for it.
The new lease with the PRC eliminates the developer, who has been the target of criticism for more than a decade.
Gomez said the PRC will have ownership of the building in 15 years after it pays off the purchase loan. Jamie Dykes, a PRC board member, said the deal will strengthen the nonprofit organization, whose mission is to encourage economic development in the city. The quasi-governmental organization is best known for funding development studies and issuing microloans to small businesses in the city.
The building also has three tenants who pay $1,200 a month for the retail spaces.
Dykes said part of the deal includes a donation of $85,000 to upgrade the city’s broadcasting equipment at City Hall. Those upgrades include four camera robotic system, digital mixing, auto gain, limiter, and gate equipment.
The upgrades also include: a projection system to replace the city council chamber projector which has been broken for five years and computer equipment and playback hardware to allow the city to stream council meetings over the internet.
The mayor pitched the benefit of a partnership between the municipality, the school district, the library system, and the Passaic County Community College. The college will utilize the broadcasting studio at the building for its students.
The library will run a program to assist residents with resume writing and job searching over the internet. It will also run an ESL program from the site, said library director Cindy Czesak.
The school district will provide $45,000 for the space it will use to run an online diploma program for dropouts. It will also provide furniture and technology for the space.
Mike Taylor, who has been assisting residents with video production free of charge, will be hired on part-time basis, for $15,600. Morris, councilman at-large, thought it a good idea to bring Taylor on board. Taylor has been producing videos for 30 years.
“The summary we’re getting is a little more robust,” said council president William McKoy, who expressed opposition against the agreement late last month.
The summary includes a history of the structure and the $350,000 loan the PRC issued to the developer to assist with cost overruns the builder faced after uncovering environmental contamination at the site. Fishman, who officials said is facing financial problems, still owes the PRC $140,000, according to officials.
Dykes said the purchase agreement with Fishman covers the outstanding $140,000.
“This is a much better deal,” said Morris, who opposed the original agreement the city signed with Fishman in 2005.
Council members approved the agreement in a special meeting on Tuesday night.