IRVINGTON. NJ — The Hilltop Apartments mixed-use residential and commercial development project on the site of the former Irvington General Hospital on Chancellor Avenue received a $17 million tax credit from the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, an affiliate of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, Mayor Tony Vauss announced Wednesday, Nov. 25.
“This tax credit award is a tremendous achievement,” Vauss said. “The credits will make the redevelopment project even more viable and there will be no loss of revenue to the township. I am very appreciative that DCA and NJHMFA see the value of investing in Irvington.”
Vauss said he is also grateful for the assistance of Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. in helping Irvington and the Hilltop redevelopment group — which includes International House of Pancakes owner Adenah Bayoh and her partners in Urban Builders Collaborative and Kapwood — “all arrive at this positive outcome.” Vauss called the collaboration a “true partnership between the town, private developers, the county and the state.”
Wayne Bradley, the township’s director of community development, agreed with Vauss, saying he has been working on deals to sell or redevelop the old IGH site since the hospital closed in 2007 and that its redevelopment is a great deal for the township and everyone involved.
“The tax credits can be used by the project’s investors to offset their federal taxes, thus making the project more financially viable,” said Bradley on Wednesday, Nov. 25. “In this case, $17 million will be made available to use for the Hilltop project.”
But Irvington NAACP Vice President Kathleen Witcher said she would like more details about the Hilltop redevelopment project. As a homeowner and taxpayer in town, she said she wants to know how it will actually benefit longtime residents such as herself.
“Exactly how will Irvington taxpayers benefit from an abatement of this magnitude?” Witcher asked Sunday, Nov. 29, and made a comparison to a current situation in Newark. “At the same time, Newarkers held a protest, hoping to have legislators in Trenton demand that PSE&G pay the city $13.7 million, which could help seal the city deficit this year. The benefit to Newark means, if PSE&G pays, then taxes would not increase in Newark.”
Witcher said she also has several more questions about the Hilltop Apartments deal she would like answered.
“According to Irvington Mayor Vauss, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs approved the break for Hilltop, a plan not clearly explained yet,” said Witcher. “What does the state Local Finance Board say about this? What can we expect from the Municipal Council?”
According to the mayor, the Hilltop is a 590-unit residential complex scheduled to be completed in 10 years. The first phase, approved by the Irvington Planning Board, will be a five-story building with a mix of 114 one-, two- and three-bedroom units, 88 of which will be affordable housing apartments, with the remainder at market rate.
Bayoh said she’s grateful for the $17 million tax credit, because it means she, her partners and the Vauss administration can continue working to make Irvington a better place.
“I think it’s always helpful, whenever you’re part of revitalizing a community that’s been sort of left to its own devices over the years, the way that Irvington has,” said Bayoh on Monday, Nov. 30.
Bayoh, who started out owning one lot on Springfield Avenue and is now on the brink of establishing a multimillion-dollar real estate and development empire, was recently named to Ebony magazine’s “Power 100” list of influential black people, along with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker.
“It’s an honor, whenever you’re selected for your hard work and your dedication to your community,” Bayoh said. “It’s awesome. I accept it for my staff and all of my companies. I accept it and it just means that we’re working and we’re getting somewhere. … It’s just been so joyful to be in business in Irvington.”
Bayoh will travel to Los Angeles to accept her award, and then it’s back to work in Irvington.
“I look at (the Hilton redevelopment project) as a catalyst for Irvington and I think the state realizes that, too. We, the people of Irvington, have lived with that hospital being closed for years. It’s always great to have the state and your mayor supporting your efforts to improve the community. … My team is just grateful that this project can move on and (be a) wonderful addition to this community that is so deserving of it.”