From Boom to Blockade: Mayor’s Interference Halts Niagara Falls Tech Project

Niagara Falls, NY: Urbacon is a developer of commercial and industrial properties in Canada and the United States. Niagara Falls Redevelopment (NFR) has the land.

The two companies planned to develop 60 acres of land in Niagara Falls as the “Niagara Digital Campus.”

It was to be a $1.5 billion technology center comprising 600,000 square feet of building space – a state-of-the-art data center – one of the most significant data center developments anywhere in the western part of the state of New York, and a magnet for more of the same — high-technology space and the jobs and the opportunities it creates.

The development, the NFR-Urbacon project – if it happens, against the will of the mighty and seemingly vengeful Mayor Robert Restaino – will bring millions into the economy. Not just millions every year in tax dollars, and millions more in payroll with 550 local employees in new, high-paying tech type jobs, but because the data center will require the broadest band, highest-speed internet access. It will require the developers to install new infrastructure for a project that will increase the speed for surrounding communities, making thousands of residents’ internet speed faster – and be a magnet for other developers to come into to town with more high-paying jobs thanks to the pioneering work already done for them.

Yes, the Niagara Digital Campus would create hundreds – maybe thousands – of permanent jobs, with annual wages at the low end of $30 million and economic benefits from the new-frontier facility of more than $250 million annually, not counting support and ancillary businesses.

It would be a shot in the arm to a moribund city begging for crumbs from Albany, D.C. and anywhere else.

A top-flight, do-it-yourself project, until the lord mayor of the city got in the way.

And a godsend for this city, when the two companies partnered. NFR had held the land for more than two decades, looking to find the proper development. Urbacon and NFR finally arrived at the right fit, together.

NFR knew there would be naysayers, but it never expected that Robert Restaino – a man elected to serve the city – would let his ambitions stand in the way. 

NFR knew that some who did not understand the development and land banking would naturally say that NFR was all talk, no action.

So NFR partnered with Urbacon, a company with an excellent record of delivering on its promises. Look for yourself and see if this company has ever fouled out or punted.

Look at its track record.

And if you have doubts that either company has the funds to pull off what it wants to do, check out the owners of NFR: two billionaires from Manhattan, Howard and Edward Milstein.

All that was needed for the right, the perfect, and probably the best North American location for this innovative hyperscale, leading-edge, state-of-the-art data center with the highest connectivity, highest efficiency and highest security was this fortunate combination of suitable land, the right landowner, the right developer, and the appropriate climate (the city’s northern climate makes for natural cooling as opposed to mechanical cooling, an impetus for quiet, energy-efficient operations for the 135-megawatt campus).

Only one thing was wrong – a headstrong mayor.

This project, developed by Urbacon – a company that has been around since 1984 – and the planning, architecture, engineering, building and management that go into it- bringing jobs to town – and the big-time companies here – that all need geographically sensitive and efficient space is no joke, as those who believe the mayor think.

Getting companies like Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Meta, IBM, Oracle, Intel, Cisco Systems, Adobe, HP, Dell, NVIDIA, VMware, Salesforce, Qualcomm, Micron Technology, Broadcom, Cognizant, Accenture, and 200 more is not something you would toss in the garbage can because your feelings are hurt. 

Guess what happens when these companies realize Niagara Falls is on the map for more than just a waterfalls?  

They come here, expand and bring in their partners.

Anyone who has ever thought this through knows this project could revolutionize the city.

But for the mayor standing in the way, Niagara Falls might return to the glory it once held as the prestigious Power City it was back in the 20th century. That’s before Mayor Edward P. Hutton teamed up with carpetbagger Robert Moses and took the hydropower away from local industry and the people and gave it to Albany.

But that’s all water over the falls.

In the present, the current mayor is working to block this data center.

Even the construction of the NFR-Urbacon venture would be epic. Based on published reports in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Technology Engagement Center and the Northern Virginia Technology Council, the planned Niagara Digital Campus would create 5,600 good-paying construction jobs, resulting in more than $250 million in wages infused into the economy – right off – and with spinoff benefits topping more than $800 million.

It could be among the largest developments in Niagara Falls history.

In our next in this series, we will explain how one Mayor Restaino stopped the process (maybe not killed it, but wounded it) because he said he wanted the middle 10 acres of the 60 acres NFR owns, and Urbacon selected as ideal for locating the proposed data center, for something as speculative and dubious as a 7000 seat, probably almost always empty, arena, that won’t create even 30 full-time jobs. Notwithstanding the fact that the mayor does not even have the money to build it.

Yes, the mayor can please his lawyer friends, act the savior and get credit for promoting his fantasy – he calls it Centennial Park – rather than let NFR or Urbacon do its project with its own money.

We will show you the entire record. You will learn the methods and means the mayor has employed to stop the project, attempting to strangle it in the crib it before it can grow into something splendid, all the while plunging the city into millions in legal fees to stop a brilliant project.

The mayor has started a full-scale nuclear legal war through the long and expensive eminent domain process – now on appeal – without the money to buy the land.

Yes, Mayor Restaino wants to force the sale of the land for his project, which the city cannot afford. 

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