As DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel General Manager Scott Swagler gives a tour of the newest hotel in downtown Niagara Falls, he shows a suite to a group of young women.
"That's what I'm talking about!" one says. She could be talking about the spacious size of the room, the large Jacuzzi, or the view of the rapids of the Niagara River. The remark could apply to each.
Suites on the ninth floor offer an exciting view of Clifton Hill and Goat Island.
"In the summertime," Swagler said of the view, "you'll be able to see the lights on the rapids."
The DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Niagara Falls had a ribbon-cutting Jan. 23, attended by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and Feb. 2, the hotel held a grand opening attended by hundreds, including Eric Fiebelkorn and Kim McMahon of the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce.
Merani Hotel Group President Faisal Merani said he was "very excited" at the grand opening of his $37 million hotel. "It's been a long road to get here, but we're really happy." The road to the grand opening is coterminous with the state's work to enhance access to the waterfront on the Niagara Scenic Parkway, the former Robert Moses Parkway. Visitors to the hotel can exit right off the parkway into the hotel's back lot. Swagler said he makes it to work in just 7 minutes from his Grand Island home.
He said residents may remember the hotel's location as home to another hotel in another chain, but the DoubleTree Hotel "is an all brand new building." Part of the building was saved and repurposed, and part was salvaged, gutted right down to the concrete and started from scratch, Swagler said. Work included the demolition of a portion of the former Fallside Hotel and Conference Center, along with the renovation of a four-story section of the building that connects to a newly constructed nine-story tower.
The state's Empire State Development helped with remediation of the neighborhood, which was home to Nabisco headquarters across the street. The project benefitted from brownfields testing and cleanup. Merani Hotel Group received a $2 million convertible loan from Empire State Development's Upstate Regional Blueprint Fund, and a $750,000 capital grant from USA Niagara Development Corp., a subsidiary of ESD, to redevelop the former Fallside Hotel.
Cuomo spoke at the grand opening of the $37 million DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton, a project, developed and opened last month. "Downtown Niagara Falls' resurgence continues with the new DoubleTree Hotel, a vital project, which is creating good-paying jobs, driving economic opportunity, and building on the successful growth of New York's booming tourism sector," Cuomo said. "New York state's commitment to Niagara Falls, including the removal of underused expressway segments of the former Robert Moses Parkway, recent renovations to Niagara Falls State Park and the private-public developments in downtown, are all helping this vibrant city realize its true potential as a world-class tourist destination."
"We are very proud to be opening our third hotel in Niagara Falls, New York," Merani said. "From the moment we announced this project, I have had a countless number of people telling me stories about the glory days of the Parkway Inn; about the time they spent in the bar, about having weddings and proms in the ballroom. Of course, those stories were always followed by sadness that the property has fallen into such disrepair. I hope that, with our $37 million investment, we can bring those glory days back, and create whole new stories and experiences at this historic property. "
The 192-room hotel, located adjacent to Niagara Falls State Park and overlooking the upper rapids of the Niagara River, boasts 16,000 square feet of meeting and banquet facilities, including a ballroom that can hold weddings of up to 450 people. The full service steakhouse, Parkway Prime, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with an outdoor patio area facing the Niagara River.
"New York state's strategic economic development blueprint for Niagara Falls tourism has paved the way for significant private investment that is transforming the area," ESD President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said. "The Merani Hotel Group's redevelopment of the Fallside Hotel and Conference Center into a DoubleTree by Hilton hotel is further evidence of the state's commitment to job creation and the revitalization of this iconic destination."
Including the DoubleTree Hotel, downtown Niagara Falls has five new hotels recently completed or currently under construction, and one hotel renovation/retail expansion project - totaling nearly 600 new rooms and more than $90 million in total project costs. USAN has also acquired the historic Hotel Niagara for future development and is working on a development agreement for the Wonder Falls Resort, a proposed adaptive reuse of the former Rainbow Centre Mall that has a hotel component.
New York state is also investing more than $60 million in infrastructure improvements for the Niagara Scenic Parkway. The southern section (Riverway Project), with full completion expected this spring, includes $20 million to restore access to the waterfront and in Niagara Falls State Park by removing a mile of former elevated expressway that once stood between the city and the upper Niagara River. This move is designed to boost tourism by facilitating hiking, biking, fishing and cross-country skiing, all accessible from city streets for the first time in more than 50 years.
The northern section involves removal of a two-mile segment from Main Street to Findlay Drive to be replaced with open space, scenic overlooks and recreational trails to make the waterfront more accessible.
The $42 million project marks the largest expansion of green space since the Niagara Reservation was designed in 1885, and will link the Niagara River Gorge and Falls into a single destination to allow easier access to the water's edge.
City of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said, "The governor's investments in Niagara Falls and laser-like focus on Western New York has resulted in unprecedented economic growth and opportunity. This new hotel, the fifth under construction in in recent years, will build on the progress we have achieved and spur additional gains - creating jobs and driving tourism in the region.
"Niagara Falls has a strong partner in Gov. Cuomo, and I look forward to working together to keep the momentum moving forward for generations to come."