Soon, there could be a new place for visitors to some of Paterson’s attractions like the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park and the Paterson Museum to stop by afterwards.
The Art Factory, which is housed in multiple former industrial buildings, is moving forward with plans for a major renovation of its complex on Spruce Street in the Great Falls Historic District. The property includes 25 buildings, according to the Paterson Times, many of which date back to as early as the 19th century when they were used by the American Hemp Company. Currently, this vast facility, which describes itself as “the largest center for creative enterprise in the hemisphere,” is used for film shoots, coworking spaces, workshops, and weddings.
Under the proposed $12 million rehabilitation, the Art Factory could soon contain much more. Records from the Passaic County Planning Board show that an owner of the complex, David Garsia, is seeking to transform it into a 269,483 square foot mixed-use facility. In addition to continuing to hold film shoots on the premises, a new food hall that Garsia described to the Board as being similar to Manhattan’s Chelsea Market would be developed inside. Art galleries, a restaurant and cafe, boutiques, and a hotel with 19 rooms for film crews would also be installed.
The project has already been approved by the Paterson Historic Preservation Commission and the Paterson Planning Board.
Although the property only includes 20 parking spaces, when the renovated complex opens, the Art Factory is planning to create a new public transportation system with two free trolley bus lines. The routes would connect the complex with parking facilities and local landmarks such as the Great Falls and the Paterson Train Station, according to TAPinto Paterson, and would operate daily during the morning and afternoon.
This is not the first time that the complex and Garsia have been in the news. First, NJ.com reported that in 2010, Garsia was charged with securities fraud in connection with financing for a condominium project in Jersey City. State court records show that he pleaded guilty in 2012. Three years later, the Art Factory was shut down by the City of Paterson for safety violations, according to the Paterson Press, and in 2016, City officials stated that the complex did not have valid permits after it reopened. Then, last year, WPIX reported that City attorney and Haledon Mayor Domenick Stampone claimed that Garsia lacked the necessary certificates of occupancy and owed $700,000 in back taxes at the time. Stampone also stated that the Art Factory was similar to the Ghost Ship in Oakland, California, which caught fire in 2016 and caused 36 deaths, though Garsia disputed the comparison when interviewed by WPIX.