Niagara Gazette

Columns

October 8, 2012

HIGGS: Norma the cheerleader mixes the ingredients

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — At the end of the week, we were invited to attend the final presentation of their work. Again, it was conducted in a professional manner, moving along in a smooth orderly fashion and included all the necessary “ingredients” to make us feel they had a good handle on our problem and were willing and able to help our community solve it. Maybe it was because the presentation was held in the culinary institute auditorium, which houses a full kitchen at its center making it a place to “combine, stir together and serve” a well-thought out “menu” of where we should go from here.

The panel was asked to present some potential development ideas utilizing the remaining square feet in the former mall. Some of the “ingredients” were our assets: the Falls themselves, our other natural resources and parks, our history, education and health care advantages, our sports and leisure facilities. An important part of this analysis was the fact that our customer base and our marketing ability to serve 755,000 people is within a limited driving distance of thirty minutes. We have to start thinking positive about these assets ourselves and quit running our city down. My friend Domenick says we need “cheerleaders” if we ever expect to gain our rightful place in the equation. Well, here I am. Rah! Rah!

Some ideas considered were retail, specialty foods and culinary, drinking places, music and books, sporting goods, fitness and spa/salon services. Potential customers would be visitors — day trippers and overnighters and residents.

The panel’s thoughts for the first floor (74,500 sq.ft. +/-) was a “destination anchor, a lower level highlighting food, art and recreation”. Some ideas tossed out were a fresh food market (very popular in many urban destinations), maybe a commercial kitchen with communal tables or even a small grocery store. A small bowling alley could be a part of the recreation aspect with some retail touching on hiking and fishing and the like along with information on other tourism experiences. How about a four-screen theatre? Potential could be Niagara-area themed movies during the daytime and first- and second-run movies in the evening. Broadcast opportunities and a place for storytelling could be a part of this space and maybe a night club.

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