Despite the fact Paterson Center City Mall was open during the beginning of the current economic recession (2008), and it maintains 3/4 of its premises occupied, the shopping center has not met its goals, and it has negatively impacted local small Main Street Patersonian merchants.
Center City Mall was built on what used to be a public parking lot, serving not only the Passaic County Court system and the City Hall, but all the shoppers of Main Street Paterson’s business district. The already struggling merchant community of the area is now battling with the big boys of the big leagues of retail. Stores like Marshall’s and Modell’s have come to town to show everyone how quickly traditional shopping in America can be terminated. According to the Center City Mall website, the area holds approximately 4500 pedestrians in its busiest hour. However, how many of these pedestrians actually have the purchasing power to enter the mall and buy something on a regular basis? Paterson is a very poor city. It holds 18.6% unemployment, and 26.6% of its population living under poverty levels (Census 2010). Many Patersonians survive with government benefits. This includes over 20% of the people receiving Social Security. There is no extra cash among these families, and they cannot afford to burn their little income in a big city mall. Proper land use in the public interest was not applied in this case. Building this site was inappropriate, and developers did not have the best interest of small businesses from Main Street at heart. The ratio of square foot per job, if it exists, was not considered in this case, and the implementation of the project was not well planned.
The giant of down town Paterson shows how complicated urban planning could be. Paterson’s socioeconomic structure has not changed much in the past decade. For this reason, constructing a big mall in the middle of a poor town, with the purpose of reactivating commerce is not very clear. In order to activate the economy of the city, every person apt to work needs a job. Without income, there is no money to spend, and even if planners thought the mall would attract customers from other areas, should not crime and burglars be stopped first? The city has laid off many police officers, and violent crimes have increased. The land was purchased, the giant was brought to life, and they will let the mall sit until it is time to sell for twice or triple the price. In my opinion, this was planning for the future financial benefit of one person, and for public interest.
Today, Paterson’s downtown has several businesses on Main Street closing. “Bargain Main” stores are shutting down, and alternatives for shopping are being reduced. Parking on this section of Main Street and the surrounding areas is limited, and all the benefits are for the Center City Mall, “state-of the art,” parking garage. The project that would bring jobs and commercial activity, and positively impact downtown Paterson and its businesses, has absorbed space, light, and the little purchasing power there was left.