The goal to open the Great Falls visitors center, designed to be sleek and modern with engrossing digital exhibits, unlike anything in the federal system, is set for November 2021 to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the national park designation.
“It is a very ambitious timetable, but it can be done,” said Leonard Zax, president of the Hamilton Partnership for Paterson, at the Great Falls federal advisory commission meeting on Thursday afternoon.
The Hamilton Partnership for Paterson is behind the $27 million visitor center that will be built on the site of the former Steam Plant foundation in Overlook Park, which is currently receiving a $3.2 million facelift that is expected to finish before the end of summer.
Zax’s group has raised $7.5 million for the Alexander Hamilton Center. His board is moving to approve spending $500,000 next week for architectural work. Other funding sources include federal and state tax credits.
Mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration has submitted the project to the state to direct a portion of the $130 million state tax credits.
“We feel that’s the critical component of what we want to do to turn the Great Falls into a top-notch tourist attraction,” said Sayegh. “We have to make this work. This is where our city was born and where it will be reborn.”
The 7,500 square feet center will provide visitors with a multi-media experience with digital exhibits, music, and interactive displays. Innovation, immigration, and economic opportunity will be key themes visitors will be able to explore at the center.
There will be a Paterson Hall of Fame that will showcase the accomplishments of famous Patersonians like poet Allen Ginsberg, football star Victor Cruz, and astronaut Kathryn Sullivan. Other features will include a piece on the Broadway hit “Hamilton” about the city’s founder, Alexander Hamilton, and the history of Hinchliffe Stadium.
“This will be a National Park Visitor Center like no other,” said Zax. His group will take the plan for the visitor center to the different corners of Paterson to collect community input and suggestions.
The center will be owned, managed, and staffed by the National Park Service, said Darren Boch, superintendent of the Great Falls National Historical Park.