PASSAIC —The City Council has approved a redevelopment plan meant to entice landlords to fix up the aging multi-family homes and apartments that once housed factory workers’ families.
The area under consideration includes most of the city’s downtown and extends to east of Route 21, known as the Eastside.
“This area has been the topic of many redevelopment discussions during my administration,” Mayor Hector Lora said. “It encompasses our oldest housing stock and lowest income areas.”
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The move fits with existing plans to revitalize crumbling factory buildings and redevelop Eastside lots left fallow when industries declined.
The decision to create a wide-ranging redevelopment zone of some 3,400 properties comes on the heels of a study conducted by the Newark-based Topology firm, which was commissioned by the council in January.
Topology found that the bulk of city housing stock is more than 60 years old, with the median built in 1948.
City Historian Mark Auerbach noted that a significant portion of the city’s housing is considerably older. Many houses date to the first quarter of the 20th century, when Passaic was a hub of American industry.
Some may be even older. The city’s industrial age began in the 1860s with the advent of the Dundee Dam and Dundee Canal in 1861.
“The vastly enlarged and now abundant fresh water supply became the basis for the industrial boom that would fuel Passaic’s rapid growth,” Auerbach said.
Textile giants like the Botany Worsted Woolen Mills, Forstmann Woolen Mills, Passaic Cotton Mills, and companies like US Rubber, Manhattan Rubber and Paterson Parchment Paper led to a surge in housing.
Their abandonment of the city led to vacant buildings that fell into decrepitude.
The decline in the housing stock took longer, with immigration providing temporary infusions, but ultimately blight set in.
Planning officials say in a region with scarce open space, Passaic, with multi-acre barren tracts and structurally sound but vacant buildings available, is primed for a business renaissance.
The hope is that the influx of businesses and housing will also prompt a desire to reinvest in housing and mixed-use properties.
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Council President Gary Schaer said while the city is attempting to nurture investment in existing properties and improving neighborhoods, the hope is to strike a balance.
“We want rejuvenation, but at same time have to be careful,” he said, saying the city is not pushing for gentrification.
Lora said declaring the eastern third of the city in need of redevelopment gives his administration a bigger toolbox to foster local investment.
Tools include five-year tax abatements, federal and state grant money, and public works improvements like infrastructure upgrades and parkland improvements.
A large portion of the designated area is in the Opportunity Zone, the Neighborhood Preservation Program, and the Urban Enterprise Zone, the mayor said.
The designation also opens grant opportunities for the municipality and the property owners. The designation makes grant applications more competitive and can make the difference in funds being awarded.
·Matt Fagan is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Passaic plan encourages repairs for aging homes and apartments in large swath of city