Track 4: Diversity, Population Change, and Gentrification in the Preservation Dialogue
Desiring economic independence, a nascent United States forged together the majestic Passaic River and inventive prowess of a new nation. America’s 1st planned industrial city, Paterson NJ is the 1791 brainchild of Alexander Hamilton and Pierre L’Enfant. Harnessing the awesome power of Paterson Falls as a source of sustainable energy, scores of mills arose producing silk, jute and commodities benefiting shipping, trade, military and domestic needs. In this context Barbour Spinning Mills was born, with 24 linked mills that followed. Twenty-one original buildings survive, forming the core of Great Falls Industrial Park. GFIP is now a creative community centered on sustainable preservation, a springboard reaching deep into the community to support arts, equity, education and empowerment.
Organized colloquially as the “Art Factory,” present ownership dates to the 1970s. Through decades of economic hardship, the owners maintained an interest in utilizing this formidable complex in ways that are complementary to its origins, saving it from the ravages of an otherwise likely fate: condominium conversion. The Art Factory is authentic, dynamic & diverse, and through the arts celebrates the following:
• Paterson comprises 52 defined ethnic groups and is the 2nd densest city (behind NYC) in the US;
• Its historicity and authenticity are the very backdrop and catalyst of artistic inspiration;
• Open to all, the arts provide a deep sense of social equity and community;
• Preservation ideals appear on multiple levels: education, skills training, entrepreneurial activities, sense of place, social engagement, open markets, local economy, aesthetics;
• Recent data suggest that Millennials – represented well here – prefer tradition-bound ambience of heritage buildings, good news for the future of preservation; and
• A symbiotic relationship with newly minted Great Falls National Historical Park (NPS) is a unique indefinite link with a sympathetic audience.
This paper explores complex sustainable preservation planning initiatives creating a vital resource in perpetual motion. It works – municipal leaders, agencies & stakeholders unanimously approve – with goals both standard setting and achievable:
• Dedicated historic preservation program showcasing authenticity and special features (original mill machinery, hand-pressed brick, massive timbers, early infrastructure systems);
• Arts cooperative open to everyone, with shared studios and equipment;
• Public marketplace for artists’ sales and exhibition;
• Hands-on vocational training focusing on acquiring preservation technology skills;
• Sound stages and studios for multimedia production, with renowned artists and programs;
• Support services (e.g., overnight guest rooms, conferencing, restaurants, gathering spaces); and
• Promoting scale and walkability, with free trolley linking to local/regional modes of transportation.
An expansive, eye-opening adventure, this project also is a reproducible model in concept and execution. It's a potent mix of preservation’s greatest promise: a veritable Venn diagram at the confluence of heritage, community and sustainability.