The Vista: A Hotel or a Park? Why Not Both?
Tuesday, March 12, 2013 • 7:20am
PATERSON, NJ – The state Green Acres program is looking at the possibility of creating a park on the crest of a hill near Hinchliffe Stadium where the Vista condominium project failed several years ago, officials said.
Mayor Jeffery Jones has been touting the same location as a choice site for a new hotel geared toward Great Falls tourists. But the mayor said he does not see a conflict between the two possibilities, asserting that he believed the site could accommodate a scenic overlook park as well as a hotel.
“It can be done in partnership,’’ said Jones, explaining that the site could include a park corridor near the edge of the hill and a hotel further back. “You don’t want to obscure that view,’’ the mayor said in describing his plans for the location.
In many ways, The Vista at the Great Falls project stands as a haunting reminder of Paterson’s recent economic struggles. When the first condominiums were built a little more than four years, city officials hoped the Vista would spur economic development in the area around the Great Falls.
But the region’s recession stalled the project and less than 10 percent of the proposed units ended up being constructed. The handful of folks who bought condos at The Vista moved out by the end of 2010 and soon the site fell into disrepair. “We’ve got to do something,’’ said Jones. “There’s dumping and other stuff. It’s really starting to become a problem.’’
Bob Considine, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the agency that runs the Green Acres program, confirmed that the state has its eye on the Vista property. “We are exploring possibilities with it,’’ said Considine. “It’s too early, however, to say whether it will become a Green Acres project.’’
Considine said it was too early to say whether the location could accommodate a park as well as a hotel.
“We will continue to have conversations with Mayor Jones, but it would be premature to get into project specifics at this time,’’ said Considine.
Jones said he believes that the state is on board with the idea of using the site for both purposes. The mayor first announced his plans for putting a hotel at the Vista site in his June 2011 State of the City address. Since then, he said, there have been ongoing talks with various investors interested in the hotel idea, including a meeting he said that was held last week.
But so far, no developer has made a public proposal.
Some Paterson community leaders say they hope the area could eventually become a state park and maybe part of an expansion of the nearby national park. “I would be in favor of Green Acres acquiring it,’’ said Bob Guarasci, executive director of the New Jersey Community Development Corporation and a member of the Paterson Great Falls Historical National Park Advisory Committee. “I think it’s well-suited to remain open space.’’
Jones said he already has turned away one developer who wanted to revise the condominium proposal at the site. “I said, ‘Not interested,’” said the mayor. “It doesn’t make sense. That’s not what Paterson needs.’’