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Niagara Falls at a Development Standstill of Its Own Making

By Tony Farina

One could argue that Niagara Falls is spinning its wheels  in an election year in its battle with Niagara Falls Redevelopment (NFR) over about 12 acres of South End property that the city wants to acquire through eminent domain from NFR for the mayor’s $150-million Centennial Park project and NFR wants to keep to build a data center.

Neither side is giving an inch and as things stand now, the legal fight over control of the property is in the hands of the Appellate Division, Fourth Department with a decision likely soon but with appeals sure to follow. In other words, no matter who wins the expensive current legal fight, the loser will likely appeal, dragging the process on and on with nothing getting done.  And the costs will continue to grow for taxpayers and NFR.

NFR says its partner in the data center project, the Toronto-based construction company Urbacon, is ready to build on the property and create what most likely will be high-paying jobs and enormous tax revenue. Does that make sense?  It sure looks like it does but the city wants to proceed with the park project for which there is currently no money set aside, anywhere to build it, and the costs to attempt acquire the property are proving to be quite sizable.

“Niagara Digital Campus” digital rendering courtesy of PRCG | Haggerty LLC

In summary, a potential job-creating project that would bring new tax revenue is blocked from moving forward because the city refuses to budge on its position and negotiations on finding a way out of the development standstill are nowhere to be seen.

Everybody has an opinion but nobody is able to break through the political logjam that has progress stifled on moving the city forward. In a way, it underscores Niagara Falls’ history of not capitalizing on opportunities no matter who is putting them forward. NFR must be held accountable, of course, given its history, but their partner is a legitimate developer and the data center project far and away offers more potential growth and jobs for the city than the Centennial Park project which has no money and might be targeted for the wrong location, as many critics have said.

So where do things stand?  At a standstill, that’s where.  A court fight and finger pointing but no progress anywhere.  What a shame, is my view.  Hopefully somebody will step up and get the ball rolling but somehow I doubt a leader is around who can put it together and move things forward.  I hope I’m wrong.

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