Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster’s proposed purchase of a 5.5 acre parcel at 3625 Highland Ave., which currently houses the Niagara Science Museum, for nearly twice its assessed value, passed by a 3-2 vote at Monday’s Council meeting.
Senior Planner Thomas DeSantis has directly linked the purchase of the museum property to the SolarCity initiative.
“With SolarCity coming online shortly, it will create a lot of demand for shovel-ready, industrial development sites,” he said.
SolarCity said it will invest $5 billion to build the solar manufacturing facility at Riverbend in South Buffalo. The governor has pledged $759 million to support the project.
Cuomo claims the project is expected to create 3,000 jobs, but in the past the state has proven to be inaccurate in their job creation estimates, sometimes off by more than 80 percent.
And there is no indication whatsoever that SolarCity has any interest in Niagara Falls, much less Highland Avenue property. Dyster offered property owner Nick Dalacu $165,000 for the property, which has an assessed value of $75,000 and may require extensive environmental remediation.
“The real purpose here is to convert, to regenerate those lands, those acres of former industrial property into property that actually becomes performing,” DeSantis said.
Dyster’s proposed capital budget calls for spending $160,000 this year, $100,000 next year, $150,000 in 2017 and $300,000 each in 2018 and 2019 on the project. Dyster hasn’t said what the $845,000 above and beyond the actual purchase price of the property will be used for.
BY paying twice as much as an environmentally challenged property is worth and then planning to invest $1,000,000, into it, Dyster’s purchase of the Niagara Science Museum property is seen by many here as inexplicable.
City Councilman Andrew Touma tried to explain the deal in an interview with the Niagara Falls Reporter.
“Well, because it’s an opportunity and the city has the opportunity to purchase the property and then develop it,” Touma said. “And get it ready for, get it ready for, well, development. If there was private industry who was interested in the property and wanted to develop on the property. ”
Is there a “private industry” interested in developing the property? If there was, why didn’t they just buy it from Dalacu, who had it listed on eBay for months without getting a bid?
“All I know is that the timing is right to purchase the property, you know, and get it ready for development,” Touma said. “Timing is everything. The timing is right.”
The parcel was originally a part of the massive Union Carbide facility in the city’s North End. Dalacu opened a museum, dedicated to antique scientific instruments, and attempted to run his own solar panel manufacturing business, which failed to attract investors and became defunct.