Technology and data center campus proposed for heart of Niagara Falls
√ With estimated 5,600 construction jobs & more than 550 permanent jobs for residents, Niagara Digital Campus would be among largest private development projects in city’s history
√ As part of project, NFR also proposes donating public amenities to City of Niagara Falls, including land with potential use as a new park and events center, and $250,000 per year for 10 years for upkeep and maintenance
√ In addition, NFR would cover city's excess cost of acquiring any out-parcels to extent this cost exceeds what city would have paid for NFR land
Urbacon, a developer of commercial and industrial properties in Canada and the northern U.S., has teamed up with Niagara Falls Redevelopment (NFR) to announce a “landmark partnership” to develop the “Niagara Digital Campus” – what it calls “an innovative, $1.48 billion technology and data hub that will bring thousands of jobs and cutting-edge technological infrastructure to the City of Niagara Falls.”
Urbacon will develop the project, which is currently envisioned for the intersections of Rainbow and John Daly boulevards.
A press release explained, “The campus will be home to approximately 600,000 square-feet of high-security, technologically advanced data-center space, creating state-of-the-art data and IT jobs for area residents. The development will also bring new infrastructure for high-speed broadband access, along with considerable county, local and school board tax revenues that will expand economic opportunity across the region.
“Based on projections derived from data in several prominent studies – including by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Technology Engagement Center and the Northern Virginia Technology Council – during construction, the Niagara Digital Campus will create more than 5,600 high-paying jobs, with more than $250 million in wages, with economic spinoff benefits expected to top more than $810 million. Once operational, the digital campus will create more than 550 high-paying permanent jobs, with expected annual wages of nearly $29 million. Total economic benefit from the new facility is expected to exceed $250 million annually, with more than 1,700 permanent jobs created in support and ancillary businesses.
“The total construction and development cost of approximately $1.48 billion for the 135-megawatt campus is based on an industrywide average of $11 million per MW of power.”
NFR’s Roger Trevino said, “Our Niagara Digital Campus will be among the largest developments in Niagara Falls’ history, bringing jobs and high-tech opportunity that will benefit area residents for generations. We have been in discussion with city officials for months and look forward to working closely with the city as we refine the plan – creating a campus that enhances and serves all members of our community.”
He added, “We understand that the city has identified NFR’s Falls Street property as its favored location for the recently announced Centennial Park project and has commenced the eminent domain process to that end. We firmly believe that eminent domain proceedings are not needed, and we oppose such actions as highly premature. Eminent domain can take years and cost taxpayers millions. It would be completely unnecessary in the face of the opportunities we have been discussing with Mayor Restaino.”
"Niagara Digital Campus" digital rendering courtesy of PRCG | Haggerty LLC
‘Ideal Location, Proven Partner’
The press release noted, “Building on the unique strengths of the Niagara Falls area, the development will be energy-efficient, low noise, and blend seamlessly with the surrounding area. It will be among the largest data-center developments in Western New York, and is expected to serve as a magnet for additional high-technology jobs and opportunity in the region.
Urbacon Vice President of Properties and Development Management Peter Russell said, “We are truly excited at the prospect of bringing our new facilities to Niagara Falls. With ready access to hydroelectric power, Niagara Falls is an ideal location for the campus. And the city’s northern climate requires less reliance on mechanical cooling, allowing for operations that are quieter and more energy-efficient.”
Urbacon said it has successfully built similar facilities in Montreal, Toronto and Richmond Hill, Ontario. Each project “brought tremendous economic benefit to its local community and has received the full support of all levels of government.”
‘Economic Opportunity, Public Amenities’
As part of the new Niagara Digital Campus development, NFR is proposing to donate a portion of its existing land to the City of Niagara Falls for public amenities, including a potential public park and events center. NFR will also donate $250,000 to the city each year for 10 years for upkeep and maintenance of the park. NFR would also cover the cost of any parcels of land that needed to be acquired by the city that NFR does not already own.
The campus will also be home to the new Niagara Digital Campus Technology Education Center, where local school groups and other interested members of the community will have the opportunity to learn about all aspects of data engineering and network operations. Future plans include scholarship programs and partnerships with local educational institutions in furtherance of these efforts.
The press release said, “NFR and Urbacon have been in close communication with city officials, including Mayor Robert Restaino, for more than eight months as the project has been developed and refined. Urbacon and NFR look forward to continuing this collaboration in the weeks and months to come as the project is finalized and gains the necessary support and approvals.”
Trevino said, “We believe this project can be underway within six months of receiving approvals – creating jobs and opportunity for the City of Niagara Falls. It’s an enormous opportunity for the region, and we look forward to working with Mayor Restaino and other local officials to make the Niagara Digital Campus a reality.”
Founded in 1984, Urbacon describes itself as “a preeminent developer, constructor, and operator of hyperscale and build-to-suit data centers in North America,” providing “leading-edge facilities with high connectivity, high efficiency, and high security, in flexible geographies with expansion potential.”
Restaino Not in Favor
On Wednesday, Restaino said, “My opinion is that it is incredible that this proposal is published on the eve of our public hearing. The property itself is not zoned for that type of development. In addition, the city does not believe that in its downtown district the proposed project is the highest and best use for the property. While we previously discussed Centennial Park with representatives of NFR, and in fact, NFR representatives recommended the site, the city proposed alternative sites for NFR's proposed project – sites that are consistent with the development they propose, and would not conflict with surrounding development.”
The City of Niagara Falls previously announced a public hearing in the Niagara Falls City Hall Council Chambers regarding eminent domain of the property proposed for the Centennial Park Project. That meeting is slated for 6 p.m. Wednesday. More information is available at https://niagarafallsusa.org/niagara-falls-centennial-park-project.
For those who cannot attend the public hearing, it will be livestreamed on YouTube and air on Spectrum Channel 1302.