PATERSON — Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration is giving Paterson $2 million that local officials say will eliminate a financing gap that jeopardized the $47.7 million Great Falls visitor center project.
The Great Falls initiative, which also includes a 270-space parking garage and a downtown youth center, has been the centerpiece of Mayor Andre Sayegh’s revitalization plan for Paterson.
Murphy on Friday announced that the state would provide the money for the Great Falls project as part of New Jersey’s $262.2 million allocation of federal COVID-19 recovery funds.
The mayor says the visitor center and nearby parking facility will increase the number of tourists coming to the Great Falls and invigorate the city’s economy.
“Governor Murphy has Paterson’s back,” Sayegh said Monday. “He is helping us write a new narrative in our city through his steadfast support of our catalytic projects. We are profoundly grateful to him for being a co-author of many success stories in Paterson.”
Until several weeks ago, the Great Falls project was stalled because of a $4 million funding gap involving the parking garage. In mid-November, the Paterson City Council voted to provide half the money needed to close the gap. The project can move ahead now that the governor has provided the rest of the funds.
City officials and their development partners still need to clear several hurdles before work can start on the visitor center, including the Passaic County Improvement Authority’s backing on the debt and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s approval for the use of state tax credits.
“Now we’re working on the rest of the things on our checklist,” said Paterson’s economic development director, Michael Powell. “The goal has always been to get those things done by the end of the year, and now with the governor’s help we’re in position to do that.”
The $24.5 million visitor center would be built at the Overlook portion of the park, across from the waterfall. The Hamilton Partnership for Paterson, a local nonprofit group, has amassed about $11 million in pledged donations for that portion of the project, officials said.
The parking garage would cost $15.1 million and the youth center at Main and Ward streets would cost $8.1 million, officials said. The youth center would be operated by the Paterson-based North Jersey Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit group.
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. said he intervened to help get the extra $2 million for the Paterson project.
“I spoke passionately with Governor Murphy on the need for the state to provide these matching funds, and I’m delighted the Murphy administration agrees,” Pascrell said. “I could not be prouder of the work we did to bring this money home for New Jersey, and I look forward to breaking ground on the Hamilton Visitor Center in the near future.”