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 history, parcels near Niagara Falls State Park continued to have high valuation given their proximity to the globally-recognized tourist destination. Thus, many local and out-of-town investors often practiced land speculation—the holding of land long-term in hopes of future appreciation in value.
Additionally, bolstered by the 2011 establishment of casino gaming on Seneca Nation lands in downtown, this practice led to owners holding parcels for years without building anything new or updating existing structures. This resulted in several key properties in downtown Niagara Falls remaining 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 deterrents to significant investments in Niagara Falls State Park and downtown Niagara Falls.
The Downtown Niagara Falls Land Acquisition Program was created to break this cycle of land speculation and underinvestment in downtown by funding the acquisition of key vacant or underutilized properties near Niagara Falls State Park. In 2018 USA Niagara Development Corporation (USA Niagara)—with funding from the Buffalo Billion initiative—began purchasing vacant parcels across downtown. In total, USA Niagara acquired 7 buildings and over 8 acres of vacant land through the program.
With these key parcels now acquired, USA Niagara has begun to focus its attention on strategies to activate these properties and bring new mixed-use developments that will enhance the tourism industry, evolve a downtown neighborhood, diversify the economy and benefit those who live and work in Niagara Falls. The first step in this process was the formulation of a formal strategy to ensure new development is done in a thoughtful manner that responds to the character of downtown. Released in 2021, the “Downtown Niagara Falls Development Strategy” illustrates a range of interim interventions and attainable development guidelines to re-imagine a vibrant downtown in the near-term while building momentum and continuing to promote sustainable dynamic growth and development over time.
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, working with State Parks, constructed a new access point to the River along the former Third Street right of way. It was completed in Spring 2021.
101 Buffalo Avenue
In March 2018, the USA Niagara 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.
In March 2019, USA Niagara 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 USA Niagara 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, USA Niagara 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 USA Niagara 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.”
View conceptional renderings:
- Infill Development Concept Corner of First Street and Old Falls Street: A conceptual rendering of infill development as recommended by the Downtown Niagara Falls Development Strategy at the corner of First Street and Old Falls Street.
- Infill Development Concept Corner of Main Street and First Street: A conceptual rendering of infill development as recommended by the Downtown Niagara Falls Development Strategy at the corner of Main Street and First Street. The Strategy also recommends a public plaza that interprets the historic Hydraulic Canal that once ran through the site.
- Upper Rapids Observation Deck Concept from Below: Looking up at the observation deck concept from Riverway in Niagara Falls State Park. The deck would be accessible from Buffalo Avenue through the 305 Buffalo Ave site and be connected to the existing stairway linking the site with Niagara Falls State Park.
- Upper Rapids Observation Deck Concept View toward Goat Island: Looking out from the observation deck concept at 305 Buffalo Avenue toward Goat Island.