Historic Horizons Project May Be History

The Herald News
By:  Eileen Markey, Staff
November 21, 2000

PATERSON - Time has run out for state funding of Historic Horizons, a proposed housing development at the former Allied Textile Printer site near the Great Falls, the agency that committed to underwriting a substantial portion of the project announced Monday.

Mayor Martin G. Barnes and Larry Regan, president of Regan Development Corp., who has a contract from the city to build on the historic site, characterized the funding cutoff as simply the latest of many stumbling blocks.

"It's just another hurdle they have to overcome in this crazy process," Barnes said.

Opponents of the 130-unit, two-family housing development said the announcement could signal the beginning of the end for a project at the center of the debate over how the city should develop the area downstream from the falls.

"It would probably be the best chance for the city to get out of this agreement," said Councilman Jeffery Jones, who said he thinks the cutoff of funding might open the door for the city council to reconsider the whole project. Jones has said the falls, which are part of a National Historic Landmark District, could be better used as the centerpiece of a park and entertainment district.

If Regan Development Corp. wants funding from the Urban Homeownership Recovery Program, it will have to reapply for it, a spokeswoman for the agency said.

"They received several extensions on their loans, which are going to expire in January," said Amanda Wiedemann. "We've decided not to renew."

Larry Regan said his company plans to submit a new application, which will reflect amended costs of construction.

"I'm confident that we'll be funded by UHORP," he said. The next deadline for applications is February 15, Wiedemann said.

UHORP awarded the much-debated project $5.3 million in loans and grants in 1996, with the stipulation that Regan begin construction within a year. Six-month extensions on the funding agreement have been granted six times since then. The last one will expire January 21, 2001.

Because the ATP site is in a National Historic Landmark district, the housing development plan needs approval from several federal and state agencies, including the U.S. National Park Service, the President's Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office.

All the agencies and oversight committees must sign a document called a programmatic agreement, defining all aspects of the development before construction can begin.

"The reason UHORP has extended the number of times that they have is because they believe in the project and they know the only reason it's taken three years is the historic proposal, it's a very cumbersome process," Regan said.

The delays are no one's fault but Regan's, said David Soo, executive director of the Paterson Friends of the Great Falls and an outspoken critic of Historic Horizons who filed a lawsuit against Regan and the city planning board in March to stop the project.

"It's been a series of blunders on the part of the department of Community Development and the developer that have caused the delays," he said. "Now they are trying to blame everyone else."

An environmental cleanup of what was a major manufacturing plant and an archeological dig on the site to determine if it has Native American or other historical significance still need to be done at the site, Soo said.

A conflict-of-interest charge against an engineering firm contracted by the city and Regan simultaneously in 1998 further slowed the process, he said.

Barnes said he was confident the project would go forward. "Everybody's pretty much in agreement, it's just waiting to be signed off," he said, referring to the programmatic agreement.

"We're kind of held by past actions," Barnes said, stressing that the administration would continue to back Regan and the housing plan.

"There could be many other more beautiful and wonderful things there, but nobody's ringing out doorbell asking to put it there," Barnes said.