Joe Malinconico

PATERSON — A Mexican produce distributor currently based in Passaic has gained approval to construct a $6 million distribution center at a 7-acre site in Paterson’s 5th Ward.

The company, GroMex, has been operating on First Street in Passaic for at least two decades and plans to continue running a wholesale business there. The Paterson distribution center will serve GroMex’s clients from Massachusetts to Delaware, company officials said.

“Their business has grown by leaps and bounds, necessitating an expansion,” said Peter Pena, the lawyer representing GroMex, during Monday night’s meeting of the Paterson Planning Board.

The city board unanimously approved GroMex’s application for the distribution center at the former Pathmark location at 18th Avenue and East 30th Street. The project will include a 96,800-square-foot main warehouse and a 10,800-square foot structure for wholesale distribution, according to the application. There will be 266 parking spaces and 16 loading bays for trucks.

Mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration celebrated the plans as part of the ongoing growth in the city. Economic Development Director Michael Powell said he expects the project to bring between 65 and 100 jobs to the city. But officials did not have a breakdown of how many of those jobs will be new ones and how many are simply shifting from the Passaic location to Paterson.

Passaic Mayor Hector Lora said he doesn’t see GroMex’s shift to Paterson as bad news for his city.

“I’m excited,” Lora said. “If Paterson does well, our whole county does well. So I want to see Paterson do well.”

Councilman Luis Velez, who represents Paterson’s 5th Ward, said he thinks the project will improve the quality of life for that part of the city.

“Hopefully, they will keep in mind that Paterson needs jobs and they will give these jobs to the people of Paterson,” Velez said.

Officials said the supermarket currently on the site will not be displaced, but that the buildings housing three small businesses — a dry cleaner, nail salon and cellphone store — will be demolished. The developers said they will try to provide new space for those businesses as part of the project.

The property also contains a scrap metal business that will have to relocate, officials said.

Pena said his clients are still in the process of buying the land from Anthony LoConte, a Hoboken-based developer. City officials in recent years had talked about the possibility of LoConte’s building a mixed-use housing and commercial project at the site, something that never came to fruition.

In 2019, municipal officials picked LoConte to build housing near the Paterson train station, but that project has stalled, partly because of delays in demolishing and rebuilding a parking garage.

LoConte did not respond to a message seeking his comment for this story. Sayegh said LoConte last November made a $100,000 contribution toward the renovation of Lou Costello Park, near the Great Falls.

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