Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces

 

Connecting a New Community to Its City

SGA2016_win_button_F1_smProject Name:Heritage at Alexander Hamilton, Paterson
Replacement of a derelict public housing complex with mixed-income, affordable family-friendly housing and a much-needed community center.

Partners: Pennrose Properties LLC; Wallace, Roberts and Todd LLC; Housing Authority of the City of Paterson; City of Paterson


The Alexander Hamilton public housing project in Paterson, comprising five high-rise buildings and nine low-rise ones, was everything one might imagine a troubled 1950s-era public-housing site to be: much higher density than its surrounding neighborhood, many of its streets closed off as a crime-deterrence measure; and still crime-ridden and dangerous to the point that the surrounding working-class neighborhood saw its property values drop and many basic services became unavailable. Today, Heritage at Alexander Hamilton is something very different.

The demolition and redevelopment of all but one small phase of the site was made possible through one of the last HOPE VI grants the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded. It funded the complete demolition of all buildings on the site; the relocation of former residents, many of whom expressed a strong interest in returning to a newly-revitalized safe, affordable neighborhood; and construction of a total of 410 new residential units. Of those units, 25 would be for-sale units; 80 would be affordable rentals financed through tax credits; and 20 would be supportive housing for those with special needs. Public-housing units would be interspersed throughout. All of the for-sale units and 116 of the rental units will have at least three bedrooms, allowing the neighborhood to accommodate not just singles and couples, but families with children.

The right design was one of the keys to a successful redevelopment. Of paramount importance was removing the unsafe elements of the older development, so streets were engineered to make rapid drive-throughs difficult, enhancing pedestrian safety. Each residence has its own entrance from the outside, creating a more vibrant streetscape and more “eyes on the street.” Those who are financially invested as homeowners are expected to lend a stabilizing influence to the neighborhood, and a new community space provides much-needed recreation, education and social services not previously available.

Lee_Reedy-Heritage_at_Alexander_Hamilton_01With the scale of the new development matching much more closely the scale of its surrounding neighborhood, the street grid has been largely stitched back together to connect the new with the old and allow all residents greater access to local amenities. New sewers, parking, utilities, lighting, sidewalks and stormwater-management features have also been installed. A new community center, available to the broader neighborhood, houses a gym, a computer room, a medical clinic and an office that coordinates social services.

Guiding all of this, and acting as a liaison between the city, the developers and the residents, was a task force of residents of the old development. It was their job to ensure the new community lived up to what was promised, and met the standard they sought for a safe, affordable neighborhood — one designed to eliminate systemic problems, and to enhance safety and well-being by providing needed new services and much sought-after new amenities, and to reconnect to the surrounding neighborhood and the larger city. The new Heritage at Alexander Hamilton is a testament to their efforts.

Supporting partners:  A.J.D. Construction; S.B. Conrad Construction; InSite Engineering; Capital One Bank; Hudson Housing Capital; HUD Newark; New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency; RBC; BNY Mellon; Columbia Bank; New Jersey Community Development Corporation; PennReach; New Destiny; Paterson Public Schools; Community Charter School of Paterson; The Center for Alcohol & Drug Resources; Balanced Well Medical, LLC; U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell; State Sen. Nellie Pou.

Videos produced by Lori H. Ersolmaz, Voices of Hope Productions, LLC. © 2016 All rights reserved.

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