One Niagara Welcome Center Dressing Up for Season

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BY: Tony Farina

 

With the tourist season about to begin, the bustling welcome center known as One Niagara at 360 Rainbow Blvd., adjacent to the Rainbow Bridge, is getting ready to greet visitors from near and far with an improved look that will include replacing the temporary vending booths with permanent structures and dressing up the pedestrian experience along O’Laughlin Dr.

 

“We are committed to making One Niagara a world class destination,” said Paul Grenga who co-owns the former Occidental Building with Gordon Reger, the son of the late Larry Reger who was a key early investor in the property that was literally on the scrap heap in 2004 and ready to be leveled.

 

Paul Grenga

 

It was back in 2004 that developer Frank Parlato took a chance on the property which was run down, virtually empty save a government tenant about to leave, and featuring a huge hole the length of the property that was empty, the legacy of the failed aquarium development efforts of the former owner.

 

Parlato acquired the property and despite a long-running battle with one of the former owner’s partners and lingering tax problems, he somehow managed to transform One Niagara into a welcome center featuring restaurants, gift shops, and a tour company. Without taking a dime in tax subsidies, Parlato managed to create more than 60 full time equivalent jobs. It was an incredible transformation that eventually saw the property emerge as a featured downtown attraction in an otherwise barren landscape.

 

One Niagara before the hole had been filled in.

 

One Niagara being paved after the hole had been filled in.

 

Grenga and several investors including Larry Reger purchased the building from Parlato in 2010 and settled the back tax debt for $1.5 million in 2014 after months of difficult negotiations.

 

Larry Reger

 

“That settlement has allowed us to move forward, finally, and that’s just what we are doing,” says Grenga who says One Niagara is continuing to pay its taxes and working with the city on a new site plan which should significantly improve the exterior of the building.

 

“We want to have the look and dignity appropriate to a facility adjacent to the State Park,” said Grenga, “and so, too, with our neighbors in this important downtown location.  It is our hope that everyone will experience the benefits of our efforts and the area will thrive as the tourists from near and far come once and come again to see our mighty world wonder.”

 

Frank D’Agostino, the owner of Cataract Tours, says his fleet of buses is already at work giving cutomers a first-class look of the best tourist sites, including the Maid of the Mist, the State Park, and hopefully the Cave of the Winds.

 

“We’ve been here from the start, and when Easter comes, we know the season is ready to roll, and so are our buses,” says the man known as Chick.   “We want to give every one of our customers a great experience on their visit, and my drivers are well versed in the history of the region and can help bring it life for our riders.  I’m looking forward to a great year.”

 

So the glass building that not long ago was ready to be knocked down is experiencing a new life as a downtown mecca for visitors featuring tours, restaurants, gift shops, and much more.

 

“We’re hoping for a great season for One Niagara and for Niagara Falls,” says Grenga.

 

It all started back in 2004 when Buffalo developer Parlato saw something in the empty glass building with the empty hole in front that caught his eye and convinced him, despite the odds, to give it a try.  He did, and now the fruits of his early efforts are paying great dividends for downtown Niagara Falls.

 

One Comment

  1. Thats a good story…Urban renewal at its best,,,

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