Responses will build off recommendations from Urban Land Institute and be facilitated by governor's "Buffalo Billion" initiative
Empire State Development has announced that its Niagara Falls subsidiary, USA Niagara Development Corp., is issuing a request for qualifications from prospective development teams to undertake an adaptive reuse and redevelopment of approximately 200,000 square feet in the former Rainbow Centre Mall located in downtown Niagara Falls. On the heels of the 2012 fall semester opening of the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute in a portion of the former mall space, and with a new mixed-use redevelopment breaking ground this year at an adjoining parcel at 310 Rainbow Blvd., this announcement begins the process for what is emerging as a complete redevelopment of three full city blocks that were either vacant or underutilized a mere 18 months ago.
"This is a great opportunity for a developer to capitalize on what is a considerable amount of unmet demand in Niagara Falls and build on the recent nearby successes like the opening of the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute," said Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Kenneth Adams. "With Gov. Cuomo's support through the 'Buffalo Billion,' initiative and informed by the great work done by the Urban Land Institute, this is the perfect time for those with the right vision to get involved in the redevelopment of Niagara Falls."
"With this RFQ, the city is issuing a challenge to the development community to unleash its imagination and creativity to conceive a reuse for this space that will further contribute to Niagara Falls as a global destination," said City of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster. "A successful project will complement the recent investment in the Culinary Institute and reinforce other ongoing investments in nearby hotels, restaurants, residences and entertainment venues."
Under agreement with the City of Niagara Falls, USA Niagara is leading all marketing and developer solicitation for this city-owned property, which is attached to a recently-renovated 1,600-space public parking garage. Upon the opening of the Culinary Institute, USA Niagara immediately began the process of identifying concepts for potential reuse schemes for the balance of the former mall, convening a week-long visioning process by experts from the Urban Land Institute. The results of the ULI team's efforts can be viewed on the USA Niagara website atwww.usaniagara.com.
Based upon ULI's recommendations, this RFQ represents the first part of a two-part process to select a development team for adaptive reuse of the balance of the former mall. A short list of qualified RFQ respondents will be invited to participate in the second part of the process, responding to a detailed request for proposals. A preferred master developer will ultimately be selected by late 2013 to redevelop the property, which is located just a short walk from the brink of the American Falls.
USA Niagara and the City of Niagara Falls are looking for development teams that demonstrate extensive experience in design, finance, development, construction and operations of large-scale urban mixed-use complexes incorporating retail, office, institutional and entertainment components.
The RFQ is available for download at www.usaniagara.com. A pre-submission meeting will be held at the Conference & Event Center Niagara Falls at 2 p.m. on April 18. Reservations to attend the pre-submission meeting must be made by April 15 by contacting USA Niagara at 716-284-2556. Statements of qualifications must be received by USA Niagara by 3 p.m. on May 20.
The full redevelopment of this property will be facilitated by future investments to be made as part of Cuomo's "Buffalo Billion" initiative in Western New York. The initiative's recently unveiled investment development plan identifies tourism assets, with an emphasis on Niagara Falls, among the Buffalo Niagara region's three top sectors for investment to transform the region's economic trajectory. Part of this historic investment by the governor in the area economy is already planned to go to key public infrastructure facilities and programming to expand the tourism experience in Niagara Falls. Strategic efforts to attract or support private sector development in the downtown area near Niagara Falls State Park - an area that includes the former Rainbow Centre Mall - are also envisioned by the investment development plan.
USA Niagara's primary objectives for the reuse of the balance of the Rainbow Centre Mall are to:
▪ Achieve a distinctive, superior adaptive-use design that will be a significant positive addition to the downtown landscape;
▪ Create new jobs, increase the tax base and support investment in Niagara Falls;
▪ Facilitate new uses of the space that contribute to a lively, urbane setting and a substantial increase in street-level interaction;
▪ Realize a reuse that best complements or achieves synergies related to the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute, expand the operating performance/potential of other established uses in the downtown area and create or entice further redevelopment;
▪ Expand the availability of goods, services and entertainment venues available to visitors and residents;
▪ Stabilize and preserve the site value; and
▪ Reach a mutual beneficial public/private partnership with the goal of returning the entire structure to a productive and self-sustaining use.
Western New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair and President of the University at Buffalo Satish K. Tripathi said, "The redevelopment of the former Rainbow Centre Mall is an extraordinary opportunity for our region's revitalization. Through Gov. Cuomo's leadership, Western New York is making a resurgence, and with his emphasis on Niagara Falls through the 'Buffalo Billion's' tourism component, this key property will play a pivotal role in the continued improvement of downtown Niagara Falls. With eight million visitors annually, Niagara Falls is a vibrant international hub with tremendous promise for economic growth through tourism. This initiative will help harness that energy and vitality to its fullest potential."
Western New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair and Managing Partner at Larkin Development Group Howard Zemsky said, "Gov. Cuomo has put a tremendous emphasis on the Buffalo Niagara Region through his 'Buffalo Billion' initiative. We've identified tourism as one of the top sectors for investment in the region and, with an able developer, the former Rainbow Centre Mall will help position the region as an international tourist destination, consistent with the 'Buffalo Billion' plan."
State Sen. George D. Maziarz said, "Development in Niagara Falls is extremely important, and is vital to the city's success. The Rainbow Centre Mall property was once a large draw to downtown and I am hopeful that it could be a popular destination once again. The Culinary Center was an important first step in the redevelopment of downtown Niagara Falls, and I am hopeful that this process will continue the steps of revitalization."
Assemblyman John Ceretto said, "The redevelopment of the Rainbow Centre Mall is crucial to the turnaround of Niagara Falls. The mall sits in a crucial location in Niagara Falls' downtown core and rehabbing and reusing the property will greatly improve the tourist experience on the American side of the falls. We know we need to offer more to tourists, which is why we fought to include Niagara Falls in the 'WNY Billion.' I am eager to see how this project will move the ball forward."
USA Niagara President Christopher Schoepflin said, "It's been especially gratifying to see the investment and activity along Old Falls Street grow over the last 18 months, first with the Culinary Institute, then with the Hamister mixed-use development and, in turn, using that momentum to hopefully leverage more growth in the balance of the former mall. Transforming these city blocks in this way will have a profound and lasting impact on the heart of the city's tourism core."
As part of this procurement, USA Niagara is also offering a unique service for companies - or even possible future tenants of the space - to possibly become part of a respondent development team. The agency is accepting one-page letters of interest from development companies that might offer unique skills, but do not wish to lead a redevelopment project, or from companies that are interested in locating in the available space, but are not interested in engaging in its actual development. USA Niagara will post such letters of interest on its website for possible consideration by respondents to the RFQ or the subsequent RFP.
"We feel it's a way to try to help the process of matching developers with potential partners or future tenants to foster more robust development proposals," Schoepflin said.
ESD is New York's chief economic development agency and administrator of the statewide business resource portal New York First (www.NYfirst.NY.gov). Its mission is to promote business investment and growth that leads to job creation and prosperous communities across New York state. ESD also oversees the marketing of "I LOVE NY," the state's iconic tourism brand. For more information, visit www.esd.ny.gov.