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USA Niagara Development: “Who wants a free hotel?”

The storied Hotel Niagara

The storied Hotel Niagara

The USA Niagara Development Corporation, a subsidiary of Empire State Development, is issuing a request for proposals for ‘qualified developers’ to purchase, restore/rehabilitate and reuse the historic Hotel Niagara on Rainbow Boulevard. 

Several developers participated in a meeting last week hosted by USA Niagara, giving them an opportunity to assess the condition of the structure, sitting atop prime real estate. In its day, the Hotel Niagara was a mark of elegance that has come to resemble the city’s decline.

More than 50 developers attended the event, including Ed Riley, who restored the Hotel Syracuse as a Marriott this year; and Marc Croce, who is in the process of restoring Buffalo’s Statler Hotel.

The Hotel Niagara opened in 1924. It once hosted President John F. Kennedy, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Al Capone. As the building aged it also deteriorated – finally shutting its doors as a low-rent hotel in 2007.


Ol’ “Blue Eyes” Frank Sinatra loved to stay at the Hotel Niagara, as did fellow brat-packer, Sammy Davis, Jr.

The 12-story landmark is located at 201 Rainbow Boulevard at First Street, on “Centennial Circle”, one block from Niagara Falls State Park, which enjoys roughly 9 million annual visitors and is in the midst of $70 million worth of “improvements” to its park facilities. Actually, $50 million is being spent in the park and $20 million spent on “removing” the south Robert Moses Parkway, which conveys tourists in and out of the park, enabling them to avoid the city altogether. Gov. Cuomo and his State Parks agency like to lump the amounts together, for simplicity’s sake, we assume. 

When it opened in 1924, the Hotel Niagara was among the city’s finest lodging and banquet establishments, and it is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, making it eligible for both state and federal historic tax credits. A previously-proposed restoration at the Property was valued at a minimum of $5 million.

Jack Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe both stayed at the Hotel Niagara, although not at the same time, in the same room.

The Property was acquired by USA Niagara earlier this year to ‘facilitate’ its restoration and reuse. The asset is adjacent to two City-owned public parking lots; the Conference Center Niagara; the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute; and in close proximity to the Seneca Niagara Casino complex.

The hotel itself has no parking. 

The state agency is soliciting proposals focusing on mixed-use restoration, which could include a hotel, restaurant, banquet facilities and entertainment venues. Other uses would be considered, like residential or office space, if part of an overall hotel reuse plan. The state agency wants any restoration to be consistent with state and federal historic rehabilitation standards and contribute to enhancing the pedestrian character of downtown Niagara Falls.

 USA Niagara acquired the building in March and issued a request for proposals this summer. The agency estimates the cost of the project to be around $20 million. The building’s previous owner, Harry Stinson, predicted renovations would be completed by summer 2013. Instead, he sold the property to USA Niagara for $4.4 million.

Stinson was named the designated developer of Buffalo’s Old Central Terminal early this year.

The infamous mobster Al Capone darkened the doors of the Hotel Niagara.

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