PATERSON, NJ – Despite the steadfast efforts of historic preservationists, the demolition of the 19th century portion of the Royle Mill began Wednesday afternoon.

Councilman Andre Sayegh said he had arranged a phone meeting on Monday between the building’s owner, UFVS Management Co., and a “major  developer’’ to try to work out a deal to keep the Royle standing. Sayegh said he tried to broker a deal for the developer to buy the building.

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But that session provided fruitless because UFVS was asking $4 million for the property, which it had spent $1.7 million to buy in 2006. Sayegh said. “The asking price was too high,’’ said Sayegh, declining to identify the developer. “It’s astronomical.’’

UFVS has no immediate plans to building anything else at the site, according to city officials. The company demolished the building at Straight and Essex streets for tax purposes, officials said.

Paterson’s Community Development Director Lanisha Makle could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. Neither could Mayor Jeffrey Jones.

Activists who tried to intervene on the Royle’s behalf criticized the Jones administration for not working out a deal to preserve the building. They said the owners should have been offered tax incentives not to demolish the mill, which was built by the family that largely was responsible for the growth of the silk industry in Paterson. Makle has said in reports on northjersey.com that Paterson could not afford to offer the building's owner any kind of tax breaks.

“The destruction of this historic Royle Mill shows that the current administration is not committed to adaptive reuse of buildings in the city,’’ said Michael Symonds. “It now sets a dangerous precedent for other owners of similar buildings to follow and heralds open season on any of the 12 currently unprotected historic buildings in the City of Paterson. We need to address this and quickly.’’

“Clearly, by exchanging a building with enormous development potential for a hole in the ground, our Community Development Department has failed us,’’ Symonds added.