PATERSON, NJ – Mayor Jeffrey Jones wants to create a nonprofit organization that would handle the city’s efforts to revive the long-dormant Paterson Armory.
Jones said a “quasi-independent foundation” would be able to handle the massive undertaking much better than the current structure of city government. “This would give us an added dimension that we currently don’t have in the city,’’ said Jones.
The mayor said the nonprofit would take on the responsibility of raising the millions of dollars needed to repair and renovate the Armory as well as oversee its operation when it reopens. Jones said he is working in conjunction with Paterson Parking Authority Executive Director Tony Perez on the project.
Officials have said that a bare-bones renovation of the century-old building would cost at least $10 million. They put the price at $40 million for more ambition proposals, including some that would transform the Armory into a sports Mecca featuring a championship-sized running track, a swimming pool, bowling alley and facilities for basketball, soccer and tennis.
The armory, on Market Street, near the Eastside high school complex, has not been used for more than two decades.
Perez said city officials have applications pending with the federal Internal Revenue Service and with the state Department of Treasury for the creation of the Paterson Armory Development Corporation. Some cities in New Jersey, including Newark and New Brunswick, have nonprofit development corporations that handle citywide economic development projects. But Perez’ said Paterson’s plan would not give the nonprofit such sweeping authority. The proposed nonprofit would only handle the Armory, he said.
Councilman Kenneth Morris, who heads the committee that oversees economic development, said he was not aware of the plans to create the nonprofit corporation. “If properly implemented, we have seen that model work successfully in other areas,’’ said Morris.
Morris said New Brunswick’s nonprofit, known as Devco, has one of the best track records in the state. “They did it in partnership with their largest employers, like J & J (Johnson and Johnson) and their hospitals,’’ said Morris.
Jones said he planned to include members of the city’s business community on the foundation’s Board of Directors, as well as representatives from its recreation department and youth guidance committee. Jones said it has not yet been determined who would appoint the board members.
“This is not about Jeff Jones,’’ the mayor said when asked if he would be making the appointments. “We’re going to be looking for qualified people.’’