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USAN board acquires waterfront property

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Wed, Mar 21st 2018 06:35 pm
USAN to issue RFP to develop strategically located vacant parcel
The USA Niagara Development Corp. (USAN) board of directors met Wednesday and approved the acquisition of a property in Niagara Falls with "spectacular" views of the rapids and easy access to downtown and the Niagara Falls State Park. The vacant parcel, at 101 Buffalo Ave., will be purchased for $1,100,000 utilizing Buffalo Billion II funds for the purpose of issuing a request for proposals (RFP) to develop the 1.20-acre site.
"The former Porter property is a unique site and played such an important role in the fabric of this community - sitting along the mighty Niagara River at the doorstep to Niagara Falls State Park," USAN President and Empire State Development Senior Vice President Christopher Schoepflin said. "A truly authentic, context-sensitive approach to its development on the city's magnificent waterfront is fully consistent with Gov. Cuomo's tourism vision for Niagara Falls, would play to our regional strengths, and could provide yet another opportunity to differentiate our approach to the waterfront."
The Regional Economic Development Council's strategy for tourism includes the downtown strategic land acquisition program, first announced by Cuomo in his 2017 State of the State. The program intends to acquire a number of key vacant or underutilized properties within a city block or two of Niagara Falls State Park to secure new, significant, downtown mixed-use development that is compatible with adjoining waterfront park and open space resources, while expanding the number of activities available to extend visitor stay.
The Buffalo Avenue property is in an area that includes both a traditional residential neighborhood and the more commercial areas of downtown Niagara Falls. It is immediately adjacent to the American Rapids Bridge connection to Goat Island in Niagara Falls State Park and near property soon to be acquired by USAN - specifically, 305 Buffalo Ave., the historic Hotel Niagara, and the USAN-owned Conference and Event Center Niagara Falls. The property is also located near several hotels and attractions in the USAN development district.
While the property is not within a local or state/national-designated historic district, it is within an "R-4 Heritage" zoning district. The purpose of this district is to protect the authentic architecture, local history, heritage value, historic urban context, neighborhood design and the integration of these elements with the Niagara River Greenway. This district is also intended to establish an appropriate, low-density transition in scale between the State Park and adjacent downtown commercial districts. Accordingly, the form and design of new structures in this district must be sensitive to and consistent with the historic urban pattern and built-form within the district.
USAN does not intend to own the property long-term, but will need to hold, insure and dispose of the property competitively. It is anticipated USAN will issue an RFP to develop the site in full accordance with R-4 Heritage District standards.
Actual development of the parcel could involve residential, lodging, commercial uses, or a mix of such uses provided the design of structures, access, lighting, etc., have scale and design features of the traditional residential development in the neighborhood. Any future development of the parcel and/or transfer of property for new development will require additional approvals from the USAN board of directors.
The previous owner, Frank Deni, owned the property for more than 30 years. It was purchased on speculation that, at some point in time, conditions would improve for downtown development.
Historically, the property, along with Goat Island and much of the adjoining riverfront, was owned by the Porter family from 1816-85, when it was sold to the Niagara Reservation, which New York state established to create Niagara Falls State Park, becoming the first state park in the U.S.
The USAN directors also took three administrative actions. The board approved USAN's annual operating budget and annual capital expense authorization for fiscal year 2018-19. The board also approved the operating and capital budgets for the Conference & Events Center Niagara Falls and Old Falls Street for calendar year 2018. Additional approval was given for USAN to enter into a two-year lease agreement with First Street Group LLC, for office space in the historic Giacomo Hotel & Residences located at 222 First St., Suite 700.
USAN, a subsidiary of Empire State Development, is solely dedicated to the support and promotion of economic development initiatives in Niagara Falls by leveraging private investment and encouraging growth and renewal of the tourism industry in the City of Niagara Falls. For more information, visit www.usaniagara.com.

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