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The Two-Project Solution

April 18, 2023

One of the more frustrating aspects of the current dispute between the City of Niagara Falls and Niagara Falls Redevelopment (NFR) is the fact that a “two-project solution” readily exists.

A solution that would provide the city residents with a park, an arena and a state-of-the-art Niagara Digital Campus… all without overburdening taxpayers with the costs involved with an expensive and potentially decade-long eminent domain battle.

Here are the facts:

  • There are several parcels of city-owned property — including land on the corner of Third Street and Niagara Street — that would be perfect for an events center.
  • Because this land is already government-owned, it would cost the people of Niagara Falls nothing — unlike the millions of dollars it will cost City taxpayers if the City is successful in its attempt to take NFR’s property.
  • The city-owned Rainbow Mall municipal parking ramp is directly adjacent to the Third and Niagara parcel. The city wouldn’t have to build new parking for the events center.
  • On April 2, 2023, The Wall Street Journal published an article titled “America Has Too Much Parking. Really,” which began:

For decades, American cities have had a parking problem: too much of it.

Countless residential parking spots go unused, and many downtown garages sit half empty…

Recognizing this, cities are shrinking the number of spaces, freeing up the land for other uses, with far-reaching consequences.

Are Mayor Robert Restaino and the City of Niagara Falls really going to buck the trend and spend tens of millions it doesn’t have to add more parking when an underutilized parking garage next to a city-owned lot already exists?

  • Not only would the land and the parking cost the city nothing, but it would allow city residents to take advantage of the generous donation of more than 10 acres of land, along with $3.5 million over the next decade for upkeep and economic development.
  • As part of the new $1.48 billion Niagara Digital Campus development, NFR is proposing donating a portion of its existing land to the City of Niagara Falls for a potential public park that is actually closer to the residents who will use the park. Significantly, 100% of the proposed 11 acres to be donated is owned by NFR, so the city would incur no land acquisition costs.
  • NFR also is willing to donate $350,000 to the city each year for 10 years for upkeep and maintenance of the park.
  • The government-owned land options are ideal locations for an events center: Near Third Street hospitality businesses, hotels and other commercial locations, with ample parking.
  • The upshot? Residents of Niagara Falls can get a park and high technology jobs and opportunity while adding to the city’s tax base, rather than adding to the taxes and deficits that will burden future generations.

Here is a map that shows the proposed locations of Urbacon’s Niagara Digital Campus, the land NFR is prepared to donate to the city, and arena options close to Third Street businesses and next to an existing parking garage:

  • Consider the Third and Niagara Street location — using the example of the Meridian Centre, an arena with a maximum 6,000-seat capacity in nearby St. Catharines, Ontario:

  • A facility of this size would fit perfectly on the existing city-owned lot on Niagara Street between First and Third Streets. This map shows how it would fit:

  • And here is a rendering of how the facility would look from Niagara Street:

Note that the arena depicted in this illustration is directly across First Street from the underutilized Rainbow Mall parking lot.

  • This solution would also be in keeping with the 2009 Comprehensive Plan that was adopted by the City of Niagara Falls and states clearly that facilities such as this should be near the commercial businesses centered around the Third Street corridor.
  • In addition, the Third and Niagara location is right in the center of the Niagara Falls Heritage Path identified for development in a 2021 Downtown Niagara Falls Development Study adopted by the State of New York and the USA Niagara Development Corporation:

  • Why wouldn’t the Mayor consider such a solution? You’d have to ask him. But the choice for Niagara Falls residents is clear: You can have…

… free land near the residents who would use it, with $3.5 million over 10 years for upkeep and maintenance…

…an events center near the commercial business on Third Street that would benefit, and

…a $1.48 billion Niagara Digital Campus, with jobs, technology and opportunity that will benefit Niagara Falls residents for generations.

The Choice is Clear! Let’s work together, Niagara Falls, for the Two-Project Solution.