PATERSON, NJ- The proposed redevelopment of the historic Hinchliffe Stadium is just one piece of a much larger puzzle, Paterson’s Director of Economic Development Mike Powell told TAPinto Paterson in an interview just two days after he presented the plan to the Paterson Board of Education.
The one time mecca of local team sports, originally built in 1932 and home to Negro League baseball and high school football, among others, has been mostly dormant for a generation and currently stands only with gates surrounding the perimeter preventing access.
“We are at a unique moment,” Powell told the Board members Wednesday flanked by redevelopment professionals Baye Adolfo Wilson, a Paterson native who now touts his record of success as Newark’s former Deputy Mayor/Director of Economic Development, and George Hibbs of Clarke Caton Hintz, a “planning and design collaborative” out of Trenton whose portfolio includes Malcolm X. Shabazz Sports in Newark.
Together the triumvirate presented what they said was a $70 million dollar plan that included a complete overhaul/restoration of the stadium to include an updated running track and playing surface, team facilities and spectator amenities, and a shared restaurant and exhibition space. Additionally, a 300 spot parking garage and 70-80 residential units would be constructed adjacent to the site.
“This project will serve as a catalyst to additional investment not just in the Great Falls area but across the city,” Powell said sitting amidst what appeared to be various site plans and project renderings in his Ellison Street office. Likening the Administration of Mayor Andre Sayegh’s overall vision of redevelopment to a puzzle Powell added that “we understand that every piece has to fit together, not just in the First Ward,” where Hinchliffe is located, “but in all six wards.”
“Housing availability, traffic impact, jobs creation, and most importantly Paterson’s economic health, all come into play for every project, large or small, that we consider.”
While there was no disagreement with the benefits of brining Hinchliffe Stadium back to life, several Board members raised concerns about the ownership of the property, suitability for a variety of sports including track and baseball, and the costs associated with the long-term upkeep of the facility.
Commissioner Joel Ramirez set a focus on the credentials of the two firms slated to manage the project, asking if they’d been fully vetted yet by the city to which Powell replied “a Google search is not the best way choose a developer for a multi-million dollar project.” An online search of both by TAPinto Paterson revealed multiple stories related to litigation they’d been involved in over the years.
Saying he wasn’t in a position to judge the merits of any legal proceedings Powell suggested that “passing on an incredible opportunity for Paterson because of what might be misleading media reports does not do our residents justice.”
Asked if any other redevelopers had been considered for the project he referred to state law that allows the city to enter into an agreement with a development entity. “We need experienced professionals that have a track record of completing projects of this magnitude. The mix of historic preservation, adaptive reuse, and mixed use mixed income redevelopment this proposal brought to the table, I believe, gave us an obligation to do our due diligence.”
“We are looking at a stadium the District took over and has not been able to maintain or utilize,” Commissioner Manny Martinez interjected. “I don’t see another opportunity coming our way soon. I don’t want to squander our chance.”
Combined, Paterson Public Schools and the City of Paterson have spent a total of more than $3.5 million in planning and rehabilitation costs associated with the unusable stadium since 2009.
Even through his trademark positive outlook Powell admitted both during the Wednesday hearing and the interview for this story that there are a lot of hurdles that have to be crossed, in a short amount of time, to make the project a reality.
Working backwards from a June 30 deadline to submit an application to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) to utilize $40 million worth of Economic Redevelopment and Growth (ERG) tax credits granted by the State, Powell described that approvals were also needed from the Paterson Board of Education as well as both the Paterson City Council and the Paterson Planning Board.
“If there was ever a time to show leadership, to show what One Paterson is about,” he suggested using a well worn line from Mayor Andre Sayegh, “this is it.”
“We have a chance to not only advance one of the most transformational projects in Paterson over the past several decades, but also to show that at all levels, including residents, there is a willingness to roll up our sleeves up and make things happen.
If approved the project is expected to break ground in 2019 and last for approximately two years.
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