Niagara Falls, NY - Another building proposal has surfaced in downtown Niagara Falls. But some city leaders feel it's a somewhat incomplete plan from a major land owner to put up another hotel at the site of the old Native American Cultural Center building known as the Turtle. There are plenty of questions and skepticism about the timing and the actual intent of the development firm.
It may look good on paper, but at Niagara Falls City Hall, that's apparently all it is at this point. The Niagara Falls Redevelopment LLC firm submitted drawings and site plans three weeks ago for the Grand Hotel and Spa.
Published reports indicate a $200 million dollar project to be located at the old Turtle building which used to house a Native American museum. The city zoning board pulled a request to exceed height limits with a 200 foot structure, according to Niagara Falls Chief Code Enforcement Officer Patrick Ciccarelli, "Due to the incomplete application with the state environmental quality review act form."
In other words, there was not enough information on environmental impact on the nearby state park and numerous other questions.
And so far the folks at NFR which has the property on its website, are not talking. Questions were referred to a New York City PR firm with no response. The politically connected billionaire investor Howard Milstein owns NFR. With the backdrop of other city development and a state initiative on currently vacant land, some city leaders are now suspicious of this project.
City Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti cites how NFR was able to ramp up the value for its old Splash Park property in the Falls as part of the casino plan.
"Very skeptical when I look at all the land that NFR owns and that I have seen nothing come from it in 20 years," she said. "It just seems like interesting timing. For myself...it just feels like this is a ruse."
Councilman Kenny Tompkins also feels there are many unknowns, but says "It's a beautiful drawing, but is it a true drawing until you have all the facts and figures? How many rooms. I mean there were a lot of questions that we're missing there." He adds that "they're seeing that downtown is really starting to develop. Maybe they want in on it."
We're told the Niagara Falls Redevelopment LLC may get back to the city planning department with much more information, including some of the environmental issues in the near future — but there's no firm date. We were unable to reach Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster for his perspective.