The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is starting its search in May for a “construction manager advisor” to shepherd work on a $46-million visitors center at the Niagara Falls State Park. The opening of the 49,000-sq-ft center, which will replace an outdated and cramped building, is scheduled for Memorial Day weekend in 2023.
Bids should be going out in the next two weeks with work beginning in the fall, according to the NYS Parks-Niagara Region.
The museum-like building is the latest phase of an overhaul of New York State’s oldest park, created in 1885. The welcome center will offer an immersive experience, both inside and out, says GWWO, the project architect. The aim is to take visitors on a journey through time, spanning the eras of geological formation and human impacts on the falls. The area’s flora and fauna will also be highlighted in the center.
On April 23, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation has committed $8 million in grant funding toward construction of the welcome center. The project is part of Gov. Cuomo's NY Parks 100 initiative.
Complement to $150-million Revitalization
The center is intended to complement the $150-million revitalization of the 400-acre park’s landscape—launched in 2011. The aim of the project, which won an ENR Best of the Best Project award in 2018, was to renew the park “in a manner that better reflects celebrated park designer Frederick Law Olmsted's vision,” according a statement from the governor’s office.
Completed enhancements include improvements to the park and its falls’ viewing areas, among them Luna Island, Prospect Point, Lower Grove, Three Sisters Islands, North Shoreline Trail, Luna Bridge and Terrapin Point. The interactive Cave of the Winds pavilion, which highlights the natural and cultural history of Niagara Falls, opened in 2017.
The glass facade of the new center will frame views of the head of the falls. Among the building’s sustainable features are photovoltaic panels that will be expressed around the perimeter of the roof of the building, with openings in the entrance canopy that allow them to be viewed from below. Two cisterns will capture rainwater runoff from the roof to irrigate native plantings on the site.
The building will include a visitor orientation area, a lobby, interactive exhibits, a gift shop, dining, outdoor terraces and an overlook. Materials will include limestone sourced from the Niagara escarpment.