The city council approved four redevelopment plans on Tuesday night in hopes of spurring economic development in some of its most challenged areas.
Council members approved redevelopment plans for the 4th and 5th Wards.
The 4th Ward plan creates a “Makerhood,” a planning concept that seeks to foster small businesses by allowing urban entrepreneurs to mix living and workspace, on Broadway. It also designates several blocks on Rosa Parks Boulevard from Fair Street to Governor Street for small commercial establishments.
The 5th Ward plan creates a transit district in anticipation of a plan to restore passenger rail on a freight line through Passaic, Bergen, and Hudson Counties. Both mayor Jose “Joey” Torres and councilman Luis Velez see the redevelopment plan as the first step to renovating and rebuilding the Paterson Armory.
Both plans were criticized for allowing building on 25 by 100 lots by councilman Kenneth Morris. He said this will leave newly built houses with little or no space for backyards or front yards.
The plans encourage density, said Morris.
“I must say, I have no faith in it,” said Roger Grier, activist and resident of the 4th Ward, about the 4th Ward redevelopment plan.
“These plans have no consideration for the general community,” said Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman. He said residents have been complaining about loud noise and nuisance problems created by businesses in residential areas. Yet both plans push for commercial development in residential areas, he said.
Jackson was the sole vote against both the 4th and 5th Ward redevelopment plans.
“There is no cohesion between the plans,” said Jackson. He said the plans appear to be taking retail away from the struggling downtown Paterson area. There are also two redevelopment plans for the downtown.
Jackson voted in favor of the redevelopment plans for the Center City Mall to create a 10,000-seat arena and the Ward Street train station area. The Center City expansion which is estimated to cost $100 million will include a soccer arena on a parking lot owned by the Paterson Parking Authority. The expansion will also allow for art galleries, microbreweries, medical spas, offices, retail shops, hotel, medical marijuana treatment center, and hydroponic farming.
The expansion of the struggling mall, which suffers from vacancies, comes at a time when cities all over the country are demolishing their ill-conceived malls in downtown areas. City planners have begun to realize malls are a poor fit for downtowns. Cities that have demolished malls to open up space for other businesses include Green Bay, Wis., Columbus, Ohio; Rochester, NY; Palm Springs, Calif., Muskegon, Mich.
Paterson’s mall is new, argue city officials, while cities demolishing them had old buildings.
“Sometimes when things aren’t running right you actually have to make a lot of investment to draw people in,” said Jackson. “I take my hat off to them for not sitting there and letting this project die.”
The mall is owned by New York developer Efstathios Valiotis. His daughter Ekaterina Valiotis handles day to day operation at the location. She was in the audience when the plan was approved on Tuesday night.
Jackson envisions an arena that will attract throngs of soccer fans from all over the country and the world to downtown Paterson. This will presumably lead to a boom for businesses within the mall and shops on Main Street.
The Paterson Parking Authority’s project on Ward Street by the train station will presumably provide a further boost to the downtown area. The parking agency plans to demolish its current parking deck on the corner of Memorial and Ward Street to build a mixed-use building at the site.
Both the Ward Street and the Center City expansion redevelopment plans were approved without opposition.