Mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration endorsed half-dozen projects, majority of them at the Great Falls, with letters of support for $130 million in state tax credits.
Sayegh is backing a visitor center at the Great Falls, a performing arts center, and a parking deck. He is also backing a housing project for grandparents raising grandchildren and several parking garages.
“As noted at the beginning of our administration, a central pillar of Paterson’s future will be driving positive investment and sustainable revitalization throughout our City especially in those areas primed for pivotal investments,” said Sayegh in a letter dated Jun. 28 to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) endorsing the projects. “Despite Paterson’s economic challenges of today, we believe the City can reinvent itself and once again become a leading center of commerce, equitable development, and opportunity.”
A key campaign promise for Sayegh last year was turning the Great Falls into a “top-notch” tourist destination. He wants to see a million visitors at the Great Falls.
Sayegh also endorsed the controversial Hinchliffe Stadium renovation project that was rejected by the City Council. He endorsed $140 million worth of projects, but did not back the Center City Mall expansion.
Alma Realty, owner of the Center City Mall, submitted an application to the state seeking $40 million in tax credits for its $100 million project that includes a branded 150-room hotel and a 12,000-seat arena.
Below are the Sayegh backed tax credit requests:
- $36.9 million tax credits for a visitor center at the Great Falls, a performing arts center, and parking deck with retail on the ground floor. $17 million for the Alexander Hamilton Education and Visitor Center; $14 million for a 270-space parking garage on McBride Avenue. And $6.25 million for the New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC) performing arts center at the First Presbyterian Church at 320 Main Street. New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO) is the developer for the project.
- $49.95 million for Hinchliffe Stadium restoration. $26.94 million for the 7,800-seat stadium, restaurant, and exhibition space. $8.27 million for 65-unit low-income housing project. And $14.73 million for a 270-space parking garage.
- $17 million for grandparents raising grandchildren housing project at Ellison and Van Houten Street, Magee’s Alley, and the Argus Mill located on Mill Street. 98 housing units will be built on the surface parking lot site and the vacant Argus Mill. 227 parking spaces will be created. George McLoof is developing the project.
- $30 million for the new Ward Street parking deck. This project has been cleared through the state and awarded tax credits.
- $6 million to rehabilitate the antiquated 431-space Blue Garage at 125 Van Houten. The project will extend the nearly obsolete parking garage’s life by 40 years and add 2,500 square feet of retail space.
Sayegh’s administration did not present the projects or the developers to the City Council prior to endorsing the tax credit applications. Council members, who were notified of the mayor’s backing of the half-dozen projects last week, criticized the mayor for bypassing the governing body.
Council members worry the projects will produce little long-term tax revenue for a chronically cash-starved city. Some also expressed concerns that many of the projects will seek long-term tax abatements.
The mayor, who had a full year to put together the tax credit projects, also received criticism for failing to conduct a request for proposal (RFP) process. His administration claimed it did not have the time and was not required to conduct such a process. Applications were due by Jun. 30, 2019.
Some saw nefarious motives in Sayegh’s failure to conduct a RFP process alleging some of his donors and campaign contributors were benefiting from the tax credits. Councilman Michael Jackson made the allegation in-person at a City Council meeting attended by the mayor.
Developer for Hinchliffe Stadium intends to seek a 30-year payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement tax abatement. McLoof sought tax abatements in the past. He unsuccessfully sought a 30-year tax abatement for the Hamilton Mill in 2017.
“Paterson’s future is precariously hanging in the balance—swinging between budding potential and missed opportunities,” wrote Sayegh in his letter. “The development decisions made during this administration will undoubtedly impact Paterson’s future for generations to come.”