The Passaic County Community College is undertaking a $3 million renovation of an old firehouse that was constructed in 1911 in downtown Paterson to create classroom and workshop spaces for its technical and vocational program.
Steve Rose, president of the Passaic County Community College, said the three-story building will house the college’s successful technical training program. The ground floor has a lobby, three classrooms, two vocational shops, a bio-tech lab, and a tech-lab.
The design for the upper floors are similar, said Steve Coppa, president of Totowa-based Coppa Montalbano Architects, who is the architect for the project. A new entrance will be created through the building’s alleyway; this entrance will have sitting benches and pole mounted lighting fixtures, according to the application the college submitted to the planning board. He said the building will be called the Passaic County Community College Institute for America’s New and Emerging Workforce.
Coppa traced back the history of the building. He said the structure that exists at 113-119 Van Houten Street was built in 1911 as the headquarter for the Paterson Fire Department. He said the building was the first firehouse in the city to support motorized fire trucks.
The college intends to restore the building for adaptive re-use. The structure sits inside the downtown Paterson historic district.
“We can bring it back as close as it was,” said Coppa.
Rose said the college has put in a request for funds from the 2012 bond issuance that was approved by New Jersey voters to allow for construction of higher education facilities to cover renovation costs for the building. Voters approved the state to borrow $750 million to support higher education capital projects.
The college spent $900,000 to purchase the old building from Greenbaum Design and Furniture Company in 2015, said Rose.
The planning board considered the college’s application to renovate the building on Wednesday night. Planning board member Jesus Castro asked whether the expansion of the Passaic County Community College will lead to more vehicular traffic in the area.
“We don’t anticipate any new enrollment,” responded Rose. The project’s application states 94 students and 7 staff members will utilize the building.
Prior to approving the project, planning board members urged the college to hire local contractors for the renovation project to create jobs in Paterson. Contractors for the project will have to be awarded through public bidding, according to college officials. The college has indicated it will attempt to hire local contractors for some of the renovation work.
The program that will be housed at the building recently graduated its first class. 10 students went through the Hands on Expert Learning Program (HELP) in March to quickly land jobs.
“Every single one of them got employed,” said Rose.