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Parking Authority Pitching Ward Street Garage as Development Site

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PATERSON, NJ – The director of the city’s parking authority wants to see the agency’s Ward Street garage rebuilt as a commercial development that would include office and retail space as well some possible housing.

As part of the plan, the Paterson Parking Authority would replace the parking spaces at Ward Street by building a new garage between Veterans Place and Hamilton Street, next to the Center City Mall, said executive director Tony Perez.

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Perez said he met earlier this month with a New York-based developer to hold preliminary discussions about the potential project. “It’s a question of being able to find the right developer and that developer being able to find the right tenants,’’ said Perez.

Perez also asserted municipal officials would have to make some tax concessions to attract the businesses needed to revitalize the city.  “We have to be able to offer tax abatements or PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) to developers to get them to come to Paterson,’’ Perez said.

Mayor Jeffrey Jones said the proposal would fit Paterson’s efforts to foster more “transit-oriented development” around the Ward Street train station. While other North Jersey communities have managed to transform their train stations into commercial hubs, Paterson’s remains underutilized, according to a recent city study.

When asked about the possibility of offering developers tax incentives to build at the Ward Street site, Jones said some Paterson projects using such tax breaks have been successful and others have not. “Tax abatements have value,’’ the mayor said. “It’s a way of enticing development.’’

Over the past decade, Paterson’s tax base has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in ratable, shifting an increasingly greater tax burden on the city’s homeowners.

Perez said the Ward Street garage, which has about 735 spaces, offers too much development potential to continue operation as a parking facility. He said the facility is about 30 years old and that the normal lifespan for a parking deck is four decades. The authority would have to invest as much as $10 million for repairs to the garage, or rebuild it for twice that amount, Perez said.

Perez said rebuilding the garage next to the mall would serve most of the monthly customers who currently park at Ward Street. He said they are government office workers, as opposed to commuters seeking access to the train station.

Perez said the ideal project at Ward Street would sweep across Memorial Drive and encompass the ground level parking lot near the train station as well as the service station between Market Street and Federal Plaza.

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