Niagara Falls Strategic Land Acquisition
The land market in downtown Niagara Falls has historically languished because of a conundrum: while the City’s economy was stagnant as it restructured away from its heavy industrial base, parcels near Niagara Falls State Park continued to have high valuation given its proximity to the globally-recognized attraction. Thus, many local and out-of-town investors often practiced land speculation—holding parcels in abeyance for years for higher-than market-rate prices—rather than work to develop these properties themselves. There are several key properties in downtown Niagara Falls that have been largely vacant, partially vacant, or underutilized for as long as 30 years. These properties—many dating to the city’s ill-fated urban renewal program in the 1970s and 80s—continue to serve as blighting influences on significant state investments to upgrade Niagara Falls State Park and to open access to the city’s waterfront. The Strategic Land Acquisition Program will support new significant downtown mixed-use.
As properties are acquired, USAN will evaluate the proper course of action to re-introduce them into the market. This may involve razing of existing structures; breaking parcels into smaller, more workable sites that can be progressively developed; or in some cases, even master planning larger sites to determine the right mix of future uses and how to best achieve these objectives.
USA Niagara Development Corporation, a subsidiary of ESD, is spearheading this initiative. USA Niagara has retained Practice for Architecture and Urbanism to work on a Downtown Market Study and Development Feasibility Study to assess the Downtown Niagara Falls market and development of recently acquired properties.
Below is a list of properties approved for acquisition and status.
305 Buffalo Avenue
This property was the first acquisition under the program and is a unique parcel of land at the foot of Third Street with its adjacency to Niagara Falls State Park and the upper Niagara River. The one-acre parcel was purchased for $850,000. USAN is currently working with State Parks to construct a new access point to the River along the former Third Street right of way. It will be completed in Fall 2020. Future development of the site will be conducted through a Request for Proposals (RFP) process.
101 Buffalo Avenue
In March 2018, the USAN Board approved the acquisition of this property, which is situated near the terminus of the Riverway near First Street and the American Rapids Bridge, features spectacular views of the upper rapids and fronts both on downtown (along Buffalo Avenue) and Niagara Falls State Park (along Riverway). The vacant, 1.2-acres parcel was purchased for $1.1 million. The previous owner owned the property for over 30 years. USAN is evaluating possible future uses of the site, either through a conventional RFP process or potentially through a joint development with the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.
In March 2019, USAN closed on an acquisition of a portfolio of 31 individual properties totaling approximately 10 acres of land in downtown Niagara Falls. It was announced that USAN will acquire the properties from several limited liability corporations under primary ownership of local businessman Joseph Anderson for the fair market value of $14.7 million.
In July 2019, USAN issued a RFP for the acquisition, rehabilitation/restoration and reuse of four mixed-use properties (441, 466, 500, 512 Third Street) and two vacant lots (503 Main Street and 518 Third Street) in downtown Niagara Falls, N.Y. In January 2020, the USAN Board designated TM Montante Development as the preferred developer for the restoration/rehabilitation of 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.
In Summer 2020, asbestos abatement, structure demolition, earthwork, utility work and site preparation in preparation for future development was completed at two blighted downtown properties: 492 Main Street, site of the former Rodeway Inn, and 427 First Street, site of the former “Niagara Snow Park.”
The program intends to acquire key vacant or underutilized properties near Niagara Falls State Park to secure new significant, new mixed-use development in downtown Niagara Falls that is compatible with adjoining waterfront park and open space resources, while expanding the number of activities available to extend visitor stay.