New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC) has been transforming the city of Paterson and creating meaningful opportunities for its residents since 1994. Through its many initiatives, NJCDC creates affordable housing for the city’s most marginalized populations, operates multiple schools, leads educational after-school programs, empowers local residents and business owners to advocate for their community, and purchases and repurposes neglected buildings to run community programming.
In 2019, NJCDC acquired the First Presbyterian Church of Paterson, a historic building that was in need of extensive renovation to be transformed into a youth center. NJCDC envisioned a space where Paterson teens could have access to a computer lab, a makerspace, and a theater. The organization came to the firm for legal help with the purchase.
What initially seemed like a straightforward real estate deal turned into a long and complicated transaction. NJCDC first had to overcome a condition contained in the original 18th century deed stating that the building could be used only for church purposes. The firm conducted a thorough legal analysis, including research into early American history and consideration of contested constitutional issues, to determine that no laws would be violated if the purchase agreement eliminated religious use. The seller of the property agreed to the terms, and in February 2019, NJCDC took ownership of one of the first church buildings constructed in Paterson. NJCDC is now working with an architect to design the site’s transformation, while preserving one of the city’s most valuable historic structures.