Niagara Gazette — Shame on those for allowing a couple of properties within walking distance of the nation’s oldest state park to deteriorate to skid row status. There’s plenty of blame to share.
The land in question borders Niagara and Third streets, next to the Bank of America. Originally owned by the former Niagara County Savings Bank, then under the astute management of the late Jack Orr, the site included an impressive tower clock that also updated the temperature, a small amphitheater, clean benches and a fountain that eventually fell victim to vandals. Not long after it was dedicated, derelicts started to camp out in the shed mostly hidden from passersby at the busy intersection. Sensitive to its location — two blocks from the state park and the Rainbow Bridge — Orr tried hard to maintain the premises but the once picturesque parcel was doomed by littering, relentless vandalism, and people just hanging out until the bars opened. It was indeed a blotch on the welcome mat here. Before long, it became known as ‘Bums Park,’ appropriate for the stench, high weeds and grimy fountain clogged with debris and soap suds.
Subsequently, the two connected parcels were purchased by the DiCienzo family of Niagara Falls, Ont., with plans for a hotel that never came to fruition. Operating as the Canadian Niagara Hotels developer, the DiCienzos own eight hotels on the Canadian side, plus the Rainforest Cafe, Planet Hollywood and the sprawling complex that includes Casino Niagara, opposite the entrance to the Rainbow Bridge. Under attack for ignoring the site, the DiCienzos agreed to pay a group of volunteers on this side of the river to cut the grass, pull the weeds and add some plantings. Again, for a number of reasons, that wasn’t an answer.
The DiCienzos, who also own the downtown Days Inn and the Sheraton at the Falls (the former Crowne Plaza hotel) are committed to investments estimated at $50 million for hotels and attractions on this side of the border. Mayor Paul Dyster is quick to note they have a huge commitment in this Cataract City and they don’t intend to walk away from their obligations.