NFR Proposes ‘Two Project’ Solution to Mayor Restaino’s Eminent Domain Quest to Take Land

The ongoing dispute between the City of Niagara Falls and Niagara Falls Redevelopment (NFR) over a 10-acre plot of land may prove pivotal in this year’s mayoral election. Mayor Robert Restaino, up for reelection, has chosen this issue as his primary focus, despite its unpopularity among voters due to the high cost to taxpayers.

NFR, which owns the 10-acre plot known as Parcel 0, plans to partner with Canadian developer Urbacon to build a $1.5 billion high-tech data center called Niagara Digital Campus.

NFR initiated a development concept, and the City Planning Department issued a letter to help implement the data center project in in 2021.

Shortly afterward Mayor Restaino abruptly halted the NFR project, insisting that the city should own the property. He threatened to sue NFR and seize the land through eminent domain if the company refused to donate Parcel 0.

NFR refused to donate the land it planned to develop, and the mayor subsequently announced his own $150 million plan to build an events center and parking ramp on the contested land, to be named Centennial Park.

NFR is now defending its right to develop its property, and an expensive, ongoing eminent domain lawsuit will determine the future of Parcel 0 – either as an events center or a data center.

However, NFR suggests a two-project solution may be possible, providing city residents with both arena, and a park, which the mayor wants, and the state-of-the-art Niagara Digital Campus, which NFR wants to develop.

Here is what NFR has proposed:

  • There is a parcel of city-owned property on the corner of Third Street and Niagara Street that would be perfect for an events center.
  • Because it is already owned by the city, it would cost the people of Niagara Falls nothing, unlike the millions of dollars it will cost City taxpayers if the City is successful in its attempt to take NFR’s property.
  • The city-owned Rainbow Mall municipal parking ramp is directly adjacent to the parcel. The city wouldn’t have to build new parking for the events center.
  • On April 2, 2023, The Wall Street Journal published an article titled “America Has Too Much Parking. Really,” which began:

For decades, American cities have had a parking problem: too much of it.

Countless residential parking spots go unused, and many downtown garages sit half empty…

Recognizing this, cities are shrinking the number of spaces, freeing up the land for other uses, with far-reaching consequences.

Are Mayor Robert Restaino and the City of Niagara Falls really going to buck the trend and spend tens of millions it doesn’t have to add more parking when an underutilized parking garage next to a city-owned lot already exists?

  • Not only would the land and the parking cost the city nothingbut it would allow city residents to take advantage of the generous donation of an 11-acre new park, along with $2.5 million over the next decade to maintain it!
  • As part of the new $1.48 billion Niagara Digital Campus development, NFR is proposing donating a portion of its existing land to the City of Niagara Falls for a potential public park that is actually closer to the residents who will use the park. Significantly, 100% of the proposed 11 acres to be donated is owned by NFR, so the city would incur no land acquisition costs.
  • NFR also is willing to donate $250,000 to the city each year for 10 years for upkeep and maintenance of the park.
  • The city-owned land on the corner of Third and Niagara Streets is an ideal location for the events center: Near Third Street hospitality businesses, hotels and other commercial locations, and with ample parking.
  • The upshot? Residents of Niagara Falls can get a park and high technology jobs and opportunity while adding to the city’s tax base, rather than adding to the taxes and deficits that will burden future generations.

Here is a map that shows the proposed locations of Urbacon’s Niagara Digital Campus, the land NFR is prepared to donate to the city for a park, and an arena close to Third Street businesses and next to an existing parking garage:

  • In addition, the lot at Third and Niagara Streets is perfect for an events center. Consider the Meridian Centre, an arena with a maximum 6,000-seat capacity in nearby St. Catharines, Ontario:

A facility of this size would fit perfectly on the existing city-owned lot on Niagara Street between First and Third Streets. This map shows how it would fit:

And here is a rendering of how the facility would look from Niagara Street:

Note that the arena depicted in this illustration is directly across First Street from the underutilized Rainbow Mall parking lot.

  • This solution would also be in keeping with the 2009 Comprehensive Plan that was adopted by the City of Niagara Falls and states clearly that facilities such as this should be near the commercial businesses centered around the Third Street corridor.
  • In addition, the Third and Niagara location is right in the center of the Niagara Falls Heritage Path identified for development in a 2021 Downtown Niagara Falls Development Study adopted by the State of New York and the USA Niagara Development Corporation:

  • Why wouldn’t the Mayor consider such a solution? You’d have to ask him. But the choice for Niagara Falls residents is clear: You can have…

…a free park near the residents who would use it, with $2.5 million over 10 years for upkeep and maintenance…

…an events center near the commercial business on Third Street that would benefit, and

…a $1.48 billion Niagara Digital Campus, with jobs, technology and opportunity that will benefit Niagara Falls residents for generations.


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