Feds give preliminary approval to Paterson’s proposed Great Falls visitors center
By Jayed Rahman
Published: April 21, 2017
The new visitors center proposed at the site of the former steam plant site at the Great Falls National Historical Park has received preliminary approval from the National Park Service Development Advisory Board.
Darren Boch, superintendent of the Great Falls National Historical Park, said the board was given a presentation on the concept of the almost $20 million visitors center proposed by the nonprofit Hamilton Partnership for Paterson at a meeting three weeks ago in Denver.
“They were all supportive of the idea,” Boch told the Great Falls Federal Advisory Commission at its meeting on April 13th, 2017. He said the board recognized the need for a visitors center at the Great Falls that is engaging, educational, and does well to attract a diverse crowd of visitors. The park service has been doing well to attract white visitors to its parks, but failing with Hispanics and other minorities.
The swanky visitors center proposed for the park will feature interactive exhibits showcasing the glorious history of Paterson in the industrial revolution, immigration, and labor movement.
Boch said there were some questions about the cost of the visitors’ center by the board. The 7,500 square feet, multi-level visitors center has been described as expensive. He said some of the cost is driven by the complex nature of the project itself.
The visitors’ center called the Alexander Hamilton Center after the founder of Paterson will be inserted into the remains of the steam plant foundation on the lower level of Overlook Park. “It’s a rather complex construction project,” said Boch.
Susan Cole, member of the advisory commission, said, the “incredibly” high per square foot cost stands out. The interactive exhibits costs are included in the estimated price tag for the center, noted another member.
Now that the project has received preliminary approval, there are two draft agreements that have to be signed between the park service and the nonprofit. The superintendent said the next round of approval from the board will require the submission of various construction documents.
Upon review, the board will approve, disapprove, or suggest changes to the construction documents, said Boch.
Advisory commission member Bob Guarasci asked about the management of the visitors’ center once it is built. Boch said the park service handles operation and maintenance of the facility. The center, proposed to be fully paid for by private funds, will be managed as a public facility.
Commission member John Lawrence remarked the park service is known for assisting with costs associated with exhibits.
“There could be a possibility of federal funds,” replied Boch.
Leonard Zax, president of the Hamilton Partnership for Paterson, has been raising funds for the project. He declined to publicly say how much of the needed almost $20 million has been raised so far.