Niagara Gazette

Columns

October 8, 2012

HIGGS: Norma the cheerleader mixes the ingredients

Niagara Gazette — Roger Spurback and I were invited to take part in the recent Urban Land Institute Advisory Panel Sessions centered on the “Reuse of the Balance of the Former Rainbow Centre Mall.” USA Niagara took the lead in organizing this week-long analysis with the additional sponsorship of National Grid and the cooperation of the City of Niagara Falls and Niagara County Community College.

The first event was an informal reception to meet the volunteer members of the Urban Land Institute who made up the panel. Their role was to visit the city, its landmarks, learn its pitfalls and meet some of the stakeholders to “pick their brains” if you will about what they feel might be a successful reuse of the former mall and come up with a plan and some recommendations. I was a bit disappointed to notice there were not enough people from the neighborhoods who make up the ordinary citizens but was impressed with the overall plans and certainly with the panel members themselves who welcomed Roger and me and were anxious to hear our ideas.

So, in lieu of the lack of ideas from the ordinary citizen, I included them in my conversations during the time I had to prepare for my interview. Taking into account the seasonal aspect of our tourism even though I feel great progress has been made to extend it, there are still 12 months in a year and a certain amount of participation is needed from the local resident to fill this void. Certainly the culinary institute has concentrated on this aspect by offering food and beverage outlets open to the public (first class, I might add) which not only provide another choice for us but offer a training ground for the students as well.

With that in mind I presented my own offerings and some that I gleaned from friends during my interview with two members of the panel and another stakeholder. My impression is they really listened to us and drew us out to “say it like it is” which is important to have the freedom as too many times ideas are only what others may want to hear. The panel was made up of professionals in the real estate market, the construction industry, the architect profession and some were former government leaders, and they took their responsibility seriously as they asked pertinent questions and made careful notes during our time with them both informally and at the interview. The other stakeholders I asked had the same opinion of their experience.

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