Western New York's Uniland Development Co. selected as developer for up to estimated $150 million project
Supported by Buffalo Billion funding, new resort will help keep visitors in Niagara Falls, create more than 300 permanent jobs, support more than 1,500 jobs during construction
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today traveled to Niagara Falls to announce Uniland Development Co., a Western New York-based development company, has been selected as the preferred developer to rebuild and transform the former Rainbow Centre Shopping Mall in Niagara Falls.
The public-private partnership of up to an estimated $150 million, to be supported by Buffalo Billion funding, will transform 200,000 square feet of the former mall into the "Wonder Falls" Resort, a new complex featuring a hotel tower with world-class amenities, restaurants and entertainment facilities, including a waterpark.
With 8 million tourists traveling to Niagara Falls each year, the resort is designed to encourage visitors to extend their stay in the city and view Niagara Falls as more of a year-round destination.
The project is estimated to support approximately 1,500 direct and indirect jobs during construction, and create more than 300 direct on-site jobs after completion. The new resort is the latest step in the state's work to help transform the former Rainbow Mall site, following the development of Niagara County Community College's new Niagara Falls Culinary Institute.
"This is the next big step in the transformation of not only the former Rainbow Center Mall, but Niagara Falls as a whole," Cuomo said. "The Falls are one of our state's most valuable tourism assets, drawing visitors from around the globe with unparalleled views, and a revitalized downtown will help the city build on this strength to not only attract more visitors, but visitors who stay longer and do more in the area. Our administration made a commitment to rebuilding Western New York's economy through the Buffalo Billion, and this announcement is another example of how that approach is creating jobs and bringing investments back to communities that had been stagnant for too long. Today, it cannot be denied: Niagara Falls is on the move."
"Uniland is proud to be named the preferred developer and is excited to work with USA Niagara, Empire State Development, state, county and city officials and the community to refine our plans," said Uniland Vice President Michael Montante. "We believe that this project has the potential to be a catalyst for the revitalization of Niagara Falls. We have a track record of successful, transformative projects in the central business district of Buffalo and look forward to achieving those results in Niagara Falls."
The proposed project will transform the two-block area of the former shopping mall - largely vacant for more than a decade - into a symbol of revitalization for this globally recognized destination. The project will be a locally themed entertainment complex involving an indoor waterpark highlighting natural features in the region; a new hotel tower with rooftop dining; a "Daredevil Adventure Center," an indoor family amusement facility; and various other retail and food and beverage venues. Portions of the project will be operated in conjunction with the culinary institute.
Empire State Development, through its Niagara Falls subsidiary the USA Niagara Development Corp., teamed with the City of Niagara Falls to formulate reuse concepts and issue a two-part request for proposals for the property. USA Niagara and Uniland will next begin negotiations on a letter of intent and subsequently, a development agreement. The full agreement and business terms will need approval by both the USA Niagara board of directors and the Niagara Falls City Council.
Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Kenneth Adams said, "Tourism and community development continue to be paramount for this administration, and the selection of Uniland Development Co. to develop the remaining portion of the former Rainbow Centre Shopping Mall advances key tourism priorities of the governor's Buffalo Billion initiative, such as extending visitor stays in the city and investing in quality tourism products."
Assemblyman John Ceretto said, "The Rainbow Mall project will give visitors what they have been looking for in Niagara Falls: more restaurants, a variety of shopping options and a number of memorable family-friendly activities. The Uniland design, combined with the successful culinary school, new downtown hotels and the Wine Trail, will improve the tourism experience by creating a more inviting downtown. Gov. Cuomo's mission to capitalize on the millions of visitors drawn to the Falls is becoming a reality as we work to create a tourist destination that will make the entire region proud."
City of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said, "With Gov. Cuomo's support and an increased focus on our city, I am thrilled to see continued progress on getting this project off the ground. Uniland has presented a creative idea for the reuse of the former Rainbow Centre Mall that will further contribute to Niagara Falls as a global destination."
USA Niagara Chairwoman Francine DelMonte said, "The former Rainbow Centre Mall boasts a strategic location near Old Falls Street between Niagara Falls State Park and the Seneca Niagara Casino, making it an important development that could foster relationships between these areas and future development on adjoining parcels. With significant progress being made on Buffalo Billion initiatives in Niagara Falls, the state's selection of Uniland and the Wonder Falls Resort could not come at a better time for our city."
Niagara Falls City Council Chairman Charles Walker said, "Thank you to Gov. Cuomo, Empire State Development, and USA Niagara for their leadership on this public-private partnership. With the announcement of a new, year-round, family-friendly attraction in the heart of our tourism district, we are finally laying the groundwork for a downtown that the people of this city and our millions of annual visitors deserve."
The Buffalo Billion 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, a subsidiary of Empire State Development Corp., 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.
Uniland is an award-winning, full-service developer that offers design, construction, leasing and property management all under one roof. Over the past 40 years, it has developed more than 12 million square feet, becoming the largest developer of office and industrial parks in the Buffalo-Rochester corridor. Uniland has more than 100 operating properties.
Uniland's partners on the project are Cannon Design, an award-winning, full-service architecture, engineering and interior design firm with projects in more than 20 countries, and Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, which is headquartered in Buffalo and is a leader in the hospitality sector with a portfolio that includes world-renowned hotels and cultural attractions. Delaware North is the contracted concessioner for Niagara Falls State Park.
An artist's conceptual rendering of "Wonder Falls."