The developer seeking to build a controversial housing complex at the former site of the Vistas at the Great Falls has agreed to make possible adjustments to his plans to protect the view shed after a three-day talk was convened by mayor Jose “Joey” Torres bringing together some of the opponents and proponents of the development.
Some of the possible changes discussed during the talks included constructing taller structures and moving the series of buildings 150 feet away from the cliff to create a buffer zone that would include a walkway allowing the public access to the area.
There was also the possibility of the city purchasing the land near the cliff through open space and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) funds. The city may also provide the developer, Greentree Investment Group, with an “administrative tax abatement” which may bypass the council.
Design changes were also discussed such as ensuring the building fits in with other buildings in the Great Falls Historic District. The developer will possibly opt to construct structures that resemble mill buildings with flat roofs, said officials.
Greentree Investment Group is seeking to build 13 three-story buildings for 156 apartments. It’s not clear whether it will reduce the number of structures after the talks.
“Our priority and concerns were addressed, and possibilities and positive outcomes were identified, not just for the city, but for the developer and concerned public agency partners as well,” stated Torres in a press release that was not received by the Paterson Times.
Torres has been a steadfast supporter of the developer and his project because of the tax revenue it would bring to the city. It’s not clear how the tax revenue will be impacted with the possible short-term tax abatement for Greentree Investment Group.
“We look forward to creating a design that is more suitable,” said David Gunia, president of Greentree Investment Group. He attempted to change the design of the project, but ended up garnering further criticism.
Gunia’s project has been under heavy criticism from environmentalists and advocates of the Great Falls. The National Park Service in a letter to Torres said the project would “degrade” the new national park forcing the mayor to hold the series of meetings at the Rogers Meeting Center.
“I left the session hopeful that we’ll arrive at an alternative that is compatible with the national park, respectful of Paterson’s history, and ultimately enhances the area for visitors and residents alike,” said Darren Boch, superintendent of the Great Falls National Park.
“The devils are in the details,” said David Soo, head of the Friends of the Great Falls, who was not included in the discussions despite being a staunch defender of the Great Falls for the past two decades.
Soo has launched a lawsuit to stop the development from moving forward.
Torres’ three-day talks included visits to the site at the beginning of Jasper Street near Totowa Avenue.
Stakeholders at the discussions included Rep. Bill Pascrell, the National Park Service, New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Passaic County Planning Department, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Hamilton Partnership for Paterson, the Great Falls National Park Advisory Commission, Montclair State University, New Jersey Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture, and GreenTree Investment Group.
“Significant progress was made this week,” said Gianfranco Archimedes, executive director of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission. Both sides have said “great progress” has been made as a result of the talks, but Soo and others are waiting to see the final results of last week’s meetings.