The announcement was made Oct. 16 by NCCC Foundation Chairperson Deborah Brewer at the foundation's Scholarship Gala. The gift is the largest in the 23-year history of the foundation and believed to be the largest ever given to a SUNY community college.
"We are overwhelmed by the generosity of David Cordish and the Cordish Group in the awarding of the Rainbow Centre and the neighboring lot to the NCCC Foundation," said Brewer.
"This gift facilitates the development of our long sought Hospitality and Tourism Center and related Culinary Institute," said College President Dr. James Klyczek.
"In the opinion of experts with whom we have consulted, this is likely the most valuable property in Niagara Falls and perhaps even the entire Western New York area. The proximity of the land to the Niagara Falls State Park, the falls and the Rainbow Bridge to Canada is unequalled."
"Locating our Hospitality and Tourism Center in the Falls was determined years ago, but this location couldn't be better," Klyczek said. "The experiences our students can receive at such a location encountering tourists from all over the world is just unmatchable. There is no way our foundation or our college could possibly afford to purchase these properties, and we certainly couldn't secure enough funding to build a new structure this size."
Klyczek and the 10-member Executive Committee of the NCCC Foundation board of directors worked with the foundation attorneys over several weeks to finalize the complicated legal procedures necessary to convey the properties. Representatives from USA Niagara, the local agency representing the Empire State Development Corporation, and officials from Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster's office have been intimately involved in developing an agreement.
"The awarding of the Rainbow Centre and surrounding property to the NCCC Foundation greatly empowers the college to facilitate its mission of providing a teaching and learning environment dedicated to excellence," said NCCC Board of Trustee Chairperson Bonnie Gifford.
Baltimore developer Cordish made the offer of the properties after negotiations with the city and USA Niagara had been unsuccessful.
"Cordish acknowledged that all involved had genuinely worked hard to separate a third of the mall at a reasonable price so the college could move its culinary program there," said Klyczek. Cordish then decided to gift the properties to the college after meetings with Klyczek and some of the college trustees over the last 16 months.
"Mr. Cordish called me late one evening and asked if I really wanted the property. Was the college really going to build what I had described to him? I said of course, in fact the project continues to generate support and we're excited working with USA Niagara and the city," said Klyczek. Klyczek said Cordish then said, "You know I love Niagara Falls or we wouldn't have been there for almost 30 years. What you want to do there is very impressive, and I am behind you 100 percent."
"I was stunned," said Klyczek. "I called Chris Schoepflin, president of USA Niagara, and he thought I was kidding."
There are still numerous hurdles for the gift to come to fruition. Because of the complicated arrangement at the Rainbow Centre Mall, both the City of Niagara Falls Urban Renewal Agency and N.F.C. Development Corporation and the Niagara Falls City Council have to agree to allow Dyster to release the Cordish Company from its leasehold contract with the city. The property, at 310 Rainbow Blvd., is a fee simple deed and much more easily conveyed to the foundation.
"I also cannot say enough about the involvement of Dennis Mullen, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation," added Klyczek. "The leadership demonstrated by Dennis and his support and commitment to Niagara, the college, and the project has been an inspiration. There is still more work to do but with ESDC and USA Niagara as partners the project has an excellent chance of completion."
All three public entities are meeting Monday, May 18, 2011, to review details to be provided by City Attorney Craig Johnson and Dyster.
NCCC intends to use as much of the space at the mall property as necessary for developing and operating its hospitality and tourism programs and related culinary institute.
"We estimate that space to be around 70,000 square feet, with the need for access stairwells, hallways and so on connected to the parking structure," Klyczek said, adding that it is the foundation board's intent to turn the remainder of the property over to the city for its development efforts being coordinated with USA Niagara.Once those agreements are reached, the college board of trustees must finalize the location of the programs at the Rainbow Centre and ultimately the Niagara County Legislature must approve the deal and hold title to the property that will be used by the college.