By Tony Farina
It is important to note in the ongoing battle between the city of Niagara Falls and Niagara Falls Redevelopment (NFR) over competing development proposals that NFR insists it discussed its data center project a fully eight months before the mayor’s $150 million Centennial Park plan was unveiled, with both projects targeted for the same 10 acre NFR South End parcel that is now the subject of eminent domain court proceedings.
That point goes to credibility, and NFR spokesman James Haggerty calls suggestions that its data center proposal was in response to the mayor’s park plan as completely untrue, in fact labeling such suggestions “falsehoods.”
Haggerty insists NFR privately discussed the data center project in partnership with Toronto-based Urbacon with city officials a fully eight months before the mayor unveiled his park plan.
That goes to the heart of the matter in many ways as NFR claims the city came up with the park plan long after NFR had discussed building a data center on the site with city officials, a project that could potentially generate high-paying jobs and expand the city’s tax base. The city claims it didn’t know about any discussions.
Meanwhile, NFR’s executive vice president for development, Roger Trevino, has begun lobbying efforts with a number of state and local officials with a focus on eminent domain as the legal battle between NFR and the city over the city’s efforts to acquire the South End property continues. It is an effort that will cost the city a lot of money as NFR has appealed the initial court finding that found in favor of the city’s land seizure.
As some well intentioned political observers have commented, it would be nice to have a data center and a park plan. In a perfect world, that would be great. But the current situation is not in that “perfect” category. The city’s park plan lacks financial support and both projects can’t be built on the same parcel. So simply put, forget that idea.
The Niagara Digital Campus proposed by NFR continues to look like the best of the two projects for Niagara Falls: creating jobs and expanding the tax base. What will eventually end up on the South End parcel remains to be seen and unfortunately the City Council seems to be whistling in the wind with a sort of do-nothing approach in sympathy with a city plan that lacks financial backing. But lawmakers are paying tax money to lawyers to help them do nothing.
For now, the stalemate continues and nothing is getting done except spending dollars on lawyers to fight the development battle in a city that desperately needs to build something that will move the city forward. I guess hope springs eternal for a city that has a history of falling short on opportunities. Leadership is needed and as in the past, leaders are rare in a city that boasts a world wonder that continues to be an attraction with a dismal supporting cast.