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USAN board approves items related to redevelopment of former Rainbow Centre Mall


Fri, Mar 27th 2020 10:40 am

Demolition contract also awarded for former Rodeway Inn and Niagara Snow Park sites

The USA Niagara Development Corp. board of directors met Wednesday and approved items to advance key development projects in downtown Niagara Falls.

USAN will enter into a contract with Marvel Architects PLLC to provide design and engineering services to repurpose the remaining space in the former Rainbow Centre Mall into a high-density, mixed-use development with restored pedestrian access through the center of the building and active ground-level services.

The board also approved an item related to the demolition of structures and site preparation of two downtown Niagara Falls properties – the former Rodeway Inn and Niagara Snow Park – to prepare them for potential future redevelopment.

“We could not be more excited to partner with the City of Niagara Falls and Marvel Architects on rethinking the Rainbow Centre,” USAN President Anthony Vilardo said. “Marvel’s approach to redesigning the former mall will bring a fresh perspective to this key downtown property. For too long, the Rainbow Centre has been an impediment to development and acted as a barrier between the city and its waterfront. Marvel has an impressive portfolio of adaptive reuse projects, and we look forward to bringing a great project to Niagara Falls.”

Marvel is one of the world’s leading adaptive reuse architectural practices and has completed many adaptive reuse/historic projects of various scales. Its holistic design practice includes an urban design unit, which helps it to consider the impact of its work at the neighborhood, district and even regional scale. The company’s primary goal is activation: creating sites that are vital, walkable, multimodal, and that serve a mix of audiences and groups throughout the day and seasons of the year.

“The Rainbow Centre is a critical part of the downtown core,” City of Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino said. “The effort to find a new purpose for the space is exciting and another important step in the recreation of our entertainment district. Marvel Architects PLLC will bring world-class design and architectural style to a very critical piece of our downtown. I am excited to review the project going forward and I am sure it will be a centerpiece addition to the district.”

In December 2019, USAN and the City of Niagara Falls announced plans to undertake the adaptive reuse of the remaining mall space as a civic improvement project. Guided by the recommendations of a panel of experts from the Urban Land Institute, the project will establish greater public access and walkability, create commercial opportunities, and modernize parking resources to support new and existing businesses at and near the mall site.

These modifications will create up to 200,000 square feet of available space that could be repurposed for uses that would benefit downtown Niagara Falls, including attractions or other entertainment venues or partnerships with the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute, such as an expansion of programing. USAN and the city have signed a project term sheet that allows USAN to procure and retain, at its expense, consultants necessary to develop plans and specifications necessary to allow construction of the project.

Marvel will provide necessary architecture and engineering services for the project. It will be responsible for working with USAN, the Culinary Institute, stakeholder focus groups, and associated agencies (NFTA, City Engineering and Public Works Department, etc.) to further expand and define the programming requirements for the Rainbow Centre Mall design, pedestrian access, streetscaping, structured parking, site features and future retail development assumptions. USAN and the city will later select a construction manager for the construction phase of the project.

The USAN Board also approved a $663,540 base contract to Regional Environmental Demolition Inc. for demolition and site preparation services at two downtown properties that were acquired by USAN as part of the strategic land acquisition program funded through the second phase of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion. The anticipated start date for demolition and site work is March with a completion by July. The project involves asbestos abatement, structure demolition, earthwork, utility work and site preparation to include regrading and seeding in preparation for future development. Specifically:

•492 Main St., site of the former Rodeway Inn: The intention of the demolition is to allow the site to blend seamlessly into the adjacent parkland until redevelopment efforts are underway. The two-story, 8,424-square-foot, 23-room budget motel building and a one-story, 1,127-square-foot office/retail building will be demolished, and all asphalt parking and structural base will be removed. The site will be regraded and finished with topsoil and grass seed.

•427 First St., site of the former “Niagara Snow Park”: The 2.8-acre site contains the artificial tubing/sledding hill, which will be demolished, and all foundations will be being removed. The site will be regraded to match the existing adjacent elevations and/or incorporate a retaining wall. Due to the size of the property assemblage and USAN’s multiple redevelopment ventures, the interim plan for the property is to allow the city to continue to temporarily operate public parking on site. The existing surface parking lot will remain as is.

See map of sites here.

The properties were acquired by USAN to “assemble long-dormant properties located near Niagara Falls State Park to remove blight from the downtown area and expand the density of uses there toward the establishment of a year-round, sustainable neighborhood.”

In January, the USAN board designated TM Montante Development as the preferred developer for the restoration/rehabilitation of the USAN-owned commercial properties at 500 and 512 Third St., as well as an adjacent vacant lot at 518 Third St., and an adjacent parking lot at 503 Main St. The projects “will be vibrant, mixed-use commercial developments and are critical for the continued development of the Third Street Business District.” (Read more here.)

The USAN board also approved USAN’s annual operating and capital budgets, as well Niagara Falls Convention and Conference Facility Civic Project and Old Falls Street 2020 operating and capital budgets.

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 https://esd.ny.gov/usa-niagara-development-corporation-6.

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