Paterson Riverfront Design Workshop



APRIL 25TH AND 26TH, 2003

The disqualification of the pre-fab housing development has created an opportunity to plan the restoration of the ATP Site so that it will enhance the historic district’s heritage tourism appeal.  One of the first steps taken by the Paterson City Council, after the de-designation of the developer, was to approve the hiring of The Waterfront Center, a non-profit consulting organization, to develop a riverfront plan.  

Led by Executive Director Ann Breen, The Waterfront Center came to Paterson and conducted a “Paterson Riverfront Design Workshop,” an informal planning session that was open to interested members of the public.  The workshop included a tour of the riverfront from the Wayne Avenue Bridge to the West Broadway Bridge.  This informative tour, which included a walk onto the ATP Site and into the stabilized Colt Gun Mill, was guided by Mike Wing, the Executive Director of the Paterson Historic Preservation Commission.   Ms. Breen then presented a slide show of successful waterfront projects around the world.

Participants were divided into discussion groups to set priorities for improvements along the Passaic River and suggested a diversity of uses for different areas of the district.  The groups' presentations at the end of the workshop included the following itemized priorities in three main categories: Design, Economic Development, and the Public Realm. 

Aerial Photo of the Passaic River below the Great Falls.

Parking Authority Spokesman at the Design Workshop.



Model of the Colt Gun Mill.


Enhance Heritage Tourism

1.  Reconstruct the Colt Gun Mill to its original four-story height.

2.  Reconstruct all three tiers of the raceway system.

3.  Rebuild the mills and their waterpower elements on the ATP Site exactly on their original footprint.

4.  Demonstrate how water was used to power the machinery in the mills.

5.  Erect bronze plaques in each rebuilt mill describing their contribution to America’s industrial and labor heritage.

6.  Create areas where Paterson’s historic manufacturing, such as silk weaving and metal lathe work, could be demonstrated.

7.  Construct educational aids to explain how the unique terrain around the falls allowed the usage of waterpower.

8.  Create a “Labor Museum” to honor the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children who worked the Paterson mills.

The Colt Gun Mill Interior.


Enhance Natural Resources

1.  Create a riverwalk along both sides of the Passaic River with connecting pathways to the raceways, West Side Park and the reservoir.

2.  Create scenic overlooks to view the falls, the river, the Paterson cityscape and Garrett Mountain.

3.  Create opportunities for recreation, such as fishing, boating, picnicking, biking, rock climbing, nature walks and play areas for children.

4.  Highlight the Great Falls at night with dramatic lighting.

5.  Allow pedestrian use only, except for emergency vehicles.

6.  Limit housing to areas outside the main public areas.

The Passaic River.


Mayor Joey Torres and Councilman Tom Rooney inside the Colt Gun Mill.


Cultural Activities

1.  Create a "4 season / 18 hour day" district.

2.  Construct a small amphitheater at Overlook Park.

3.  Construct a large amphitheater at the old quarry area on the ATP Site.

4.  Create an indoor performing arts center in a restored mill on the ATP Site.

5.  Allow movable artists kiosks throughout the district.

6.  Provide opportunities for family-oriented entertainment, dining and shopping in restored mills on the ATP Site.

7.  Create a restaurant and nightspot district in the Ryle Road area.

8.                Promote sporting and cultural events at the nearby 9500 seat Hinchliff Stadium.

9.  Use Alfano Island (S.U.M. Island) for a children’s park with petting zoo, Indian Village and/or skating area.

10.  Construct a restaurant with a view of the falls.

ATP Site Mill Ruins.

City Improvements

1.  Create beautiful landscaped areas with plants, fountains, sculpture and paving stones.

2.  Build pedestrian bridges across the river.

3.  Create four grand gateways to the historic district at the present location of the Visitors Center, at the Colt Gun Mill, at Ryle Road, and at the old ice cream shop above the falls.

4.  Use the current bus depot for tourist buses and parking.

5.  Move the Visitor’s Center closer to the bus depot and Paterson Museum.

6.  Close off Maple Avenue above the falls to pedestrian use only.

7.  Build a hotel on the cliff above Valley of the Rocks and/or at the current Visitor Center’s location.

8.  Build more parking garages, especially near Hinchliff Stadium, taking commercial advantage of the views from the top floors.

An ATP Site Mill Wall.

Councilman Tom Rooney, David Soo and Mike Lemme in front of the Colt Gun Mill.


View from the Clifftop above the Valley of the Rocks.


Image Campaign

1.  Install new signs to direct travelers on Route 80 and other roadways to the Paterson Great Falls Historic District.

2.  Promote Paterson’s natural and historic resources in the media and on a City of Paterson website.

3.  Stage more music concerts and festivals such as a Winter Light Festival and ethnic celebrations.


Safety and Streetscape Improvements

1.  Improve police patrolling.

2.  Improve lighting.

3.  Provide cleaner streets and parks.

4.  Improve landscaping.

5.  Reduce the pollution in the river.

6.  Provide more parking.


  Mike Wing, Frank Blesso, David Soo and Flavia Alaya at the Design Workshop.