The state awarded a $985,000 grant to the New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC) to help fund the conversion of the American Legion Hall on Front Street into a youth center, according to the New Jersey Division of Community Affairs (DCA).
Funds being provided through the state’s Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit (NRTC) program will be used to renovate the old American Legion Hall in the Totowa section the nonprofit purchased in July of 2016, said Bob Guarasci, president of the New Jersey Community Development Corporation.
“We’re very excited about taking a building that one time was a vibrant center of this community’s life and bringing it back so that current residents can benefit from it,” said Guarasci on Monday afternoon. He said funds will cover renovation expenses, debt service incurred in acquiring the building, and to hire staff.
Guarasci expects to have the building renovated and ready to open by September 1st, 2017. The youth center will be called the Great Falls Education and Training Center. It will provide educational, job training, and microenterprise development training services to young people in the neighborhood.
There will be one full-time employee and four part-time AmeriCorps members to operate the youth center, said Guarasci. The award will also support art instruction and allow recruitment of young people to clean up their neighborhood and involve themselves in beautification events in the city. City residents will benefit from classes, workshops, seminars, and job readiness activities that will occur at the center, according to the state.
The Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit program is administered by the Division of Housing and Community Resources. The program is funded by various corporations which receive 100-percent tax credit against certain state taxes for investing in bettering poor neighborhoods in cities. Atlantic Stewardship Bank, Horizon Healthcare, Lakeland Bank, M&T Bank, RCC Builders/Developers, Sterling National Bank, Thomson Reuters, and Valley National Bank contributed funds to the program, according to the state.
Guarasci noted the funds being awarded is a reimbursement grant. “We have to spend the money first and then we put in to the department of community affairs for reimbursement,” he said. This is the seventh time the nonprofit group has been awarded a neighborhood revitalization grant. The group has had an approved neighborhood revitalization plan with the state for the Greater Spruce Street neighborhood since 2009.
Founded in 1994, the group has had a visible impact in the Spruce Street area. It has renovated a number of buildings and is presently undertaking a new mixed-use construction project on the corner of Grant and Spruce Streets.