PASSAIC — A new advertising campaign on NJ Transit buses portrays the city’s Main Avenue shopping district as a mecca with “over 100 stores” and a low 3.5 percent sales tax.
“Everybody knows that this building, there’s not a company in it,” Ahmed Ebid, the store manager of Home-N-Furniture, said Tuesday. “People they are going to take it as not the truth.”
Redevelopment Director Glenn Carter said the city’s nonprofit Urban Enterprise Zone paid $8,000 for the latest advertising campaign on 20 buses to bolster the city’s image. In past years, city officials had used bus billboards and television commercials.
“We obviously knew it was vacant,” he said. “It was decided to be the most prominent building in Passaic, and we do look at it as a hope for the future.”
Local business owners complain that the 88,575-square-foot, 11-story behemoth known as the Bank Tower, at 663 Main Ave., projects a negative image with broken windows and garbage scattered on windowsills.
“Glass breaks when the wind blows … it’s a dangerous building,” said Kenneth Lulo, an attorney with a law office on nearby Prospect Street.
The art deco-style building has sat dilapidated and vacant for more than a decade after medical offices, lawyers and professional services moved out. The owners opted to shutter the building instead of making mandatory fire-code upgrades.
Carter said the city is in the process of filing a condemnation complaint against the building’s owner, New York City-based 460 Park Associates.
In April, the city hired an appraiser who estimated the value of the building to be $1.86 million.
Telephone calls for comment on the Bank Tower building to The Moinian Group, a New York City-based property management company representing the owners, were not returned Tuesday.
In 1994, to reinvigorate the city’s ailing downtown business district, the state designated Passaic as an Urban Enterprise Zone, making it one of 33 places in New Jersey to receive special tax benefits and incentives. Passaic and Paterson are the only cities in Passaic County to enjoy the special status. Businesses can get a 100 percent sales tax rebate on business-related purchases.
UEZ Chairman Cliff Lindholm said the advertising campaign’s main goal has less to do with the symbolic building and more to do with attracting retail shoppers to the downtown business district.
“How much time do you spend looking at a bus?” Lindholm questioned. “What you really want to get across is the 3 percent sales tax.”
Lindholm, who owns Passaic-based Falstrom Co., an aerospace manufacturer, said the UEZ has not only helped shoppers, but the 250 business-owners who are members of the UEZ. Revenue from the city’s sales tax goes directly into the city’s coffers to pay for improvements to streets in the business district.
The bus depots boast new lighting, landscaping, paving and other improvements. The UEZ also has helped finance several of the city’s redevelopment projects.
Reach Meredith Mandell at email@example.com.