The city’s school district should cede ownership of the historic Hinchcliffe Stadium to the municipal government to allow the city to foster the economic development needed in the vicinity for a renovated stadium, recommended a consultant to both the city council and the board of education during a joint meeting on Wednesday night.
“Schools don’t have the functioning role to promote economic development,” said Tom Moriarity, managing principal of Arlington, VA-based Retail and Development Strategies (RDS), during a presentation before the two bodies. His market analysis report for the stadium says the mission of the school district is not economic development, but education. The city will be better able to form public-private partnerships needed to redevelop the area around the stadium through what’s called a Revenue Allocation District (RAD).
The city transferred the stadium to the school district for a nominal $1 fee in 1963. School board members needed more time before making a decision.
“There has to be some deed swaps. We can’t simply give up the field,” said school board president Christopher Irving. His colleague Emanuel Capers suggested exchanging Hinchcliffe Stadium for Bauerle Field and Westside Park.
Capers suggestion is unlikely to be accepted by the city. Westside Park is a huge city-owned park on the border of the Totowa section and Hillcrest neighborhood. There’s a movement to renovate the 26.6-acre park.
Irving said the more realistic exchange will likely be for Bauerle Field. He also suggested a joint board to manage access to a renovated Hinchcliffe Stadium to ensure the school system is able to utilize the stadium for its athletics.
Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres pointed out the school district has access to use every park in the city. Most city schools are built close to city-owned parks which serve as their recreation space, said the mayor.
The current shared services agreement between the two entities has to be revamped, both sides said. Torres also suggested bonding to renovate local parks for school uses. He said the debt payments would have to be taken on by both the city and the schools.
“It’s time for Hinchcliffe Stadium to be owned by the city,” said Brian LoPinto, president of the Friends of Hinchcliffe Stadium, which has been a major force behind the movement to restore the iconic stadium that has been closed for two decades.
LoPinto was among a small group of people who attended the joint meeting between the two boards. The meeting included several presentations.
Moriarity’s presentation focused on a business plan and the need to create a Revenue Allocation District to fund improvements in the area. The district would include properties on Totowa Avenue down to Ryle Avenue.
In such districts, properties are targeted for redevelopment using incentives to draw private investment and increase their value in order to increase property tax revenues to the government, according to the study. The difference between the pre-renovation and post-renovation value is set aside to guarantee bond issuances to support infrastructure development and incentivizing private investment within the district.
Majority of the properties within the proposed RAD is tax exempt due to government ownership. Moriarity said an ordinance has to be passed to create the district. He said the city is able to expand the boundaries when it considers creating the RAD.
The council and the school board did not discuss the proposed district. Councilman Michael Jackson wanted the council to discuss the district. Council president William McKoy told him the joint meeting was to update the school board on the stadium.
The restoration of the stadium is estimated to cost $25 million. The stadium will be able to accommodate soccer, high school football, ultimate frisbee, Lacrosse, rugby, cricket, grass volleyball, and field hockey. The stadium, known for baseball, cannot accommodate a regulation size field to support baseball.
Moriarity noted the stadium could become a regional hub for soccer. The NJ Teamsters FC, a soccer club, has expressed interest in using the stadium for practice and games.
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