The school board has given its approval to mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration’s $70 million project to renovate historic Hinchliffe Stadium by expanding and extending its lease agreement with the city.
School board members approved the amended agreement in a 5-3 vote on Monday night. Under the revised agreement, the district, which owns the Hinchliffe Stadium and an adjoining lot, will allow the city and its chosen developers to rehabilitate the stadium and build apartments on Lot 7 on Block 801, site of the existing Elysian vegetable garden.
The amendment extends the 2010 lease agreement to “until the end of the longest-term tax credit,” according to the approved resolution. The project will use $40 million in state tax credits. Where will the rest of the funds come from? Neither the developer nor officials provided a straight answer to that question.
Hinchliffe Stadium will cost $26 million alone, according to developer Baye Adofo-Wilson. He said 80 apartments will go up on Lot 7. The project includes a 300-space parking deck, a restaurant, and gallery space for Negro League history. He is working on the project with L&M Development Partners.
Some school board members asked questions about the revenue sharing portion of the agreement.
“After all expenses are paid — basically from the seating, concession, and et cetera — the developer and the Board of Education will share them 50-50,” said the district’s attorney Barry Marell of the Apruzzese, McDermott, Mastro & Murphy law firm.
School board member Emanuel Capers asked whether it includes revenues from the proposed museum at the site.
“That’s my understanding. If that’s part of the stadium, the exhibition space, and that generates revenue, then that’s going to be split,” Marell replied.
Longtime school board member Jonathan Hodges asked whether that includes revenue from the proposed restaurant.
If it’s part of the stadium it would have to be split, said Marell.
“I know there was talk [that] we’d not get any of the benefits from the apartments. Has that changed? Are we getting nothing in return for that land?” asked school board member Eddy Olivares.
“That’s not part of the profit-sharing arrangement,” answered Marell.
School board member Manny Martinez, a close ally of the mayor, pushed back against the questioning of his colleagues.
“It’s almost being posed as if we’re giving away the stadium and getting nothing in return,” said Martinez. “We are maintaining ownership of the stadium. What we are getting back in return is a functioning, working stadium.”
Martinez pointed out the district will have priority scheduling in use of the stadium.
School board members Capers, Hodges, Martinez, Kenneth Simmons, and Nakima Redmon voted in favor while Olivares, Joel Ramirez, and Robinson Rondon voted against. School board president Oshin Castillo did not take part in the vote.
Some spoke in favor and others against the Hinchliffe Stadium project.
“It’s a long time coming. Hinchliffe Stadium has been out of commission for 22 years. It’s a place of light,” said Brian LoPinto, president of the Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium. “Tonight really could be the first night for Hinchliffe Stadium’s revitalization.”
“All of the pieces were not told to us,” said former school board member Waheedah Muhammad. Sayegh administration officials have been criticized for not making public all the details of the project. “If it’s not for the benefit of our children let’s not do that.”
Economic development director Michael Powell handed a copy of the presentation he gave to school board received last month to Muhammad after the vote.
Now, Powell has to get the approval of the City Council. He has to submit the tax credit application to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) by Jun. 30, 2019. The amended agreement says the developer has until Dec. 31, 2019 to obtain “adequate financing” for the project.
The project has to be completed by Jul. 28, 2022. After the renovation of the stadium, the agreement requires the municipal government and the school district to create an advisory committee.