Niagara Gazette

February 24, 2012

CHEERS & JEERS: Feb. 24's best and worst of the week

Staff Reports
Niagara Gazette

— CHEERS

• COUNTY INITIATIVE: It appears what we’ve been saying all these years is finally starting to sink in for county officials: What’s good for Niagara Falls is good for the county. During an address to the county Legislature this week, Henry Sloma, chairperson of the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency, and other county lawmakers, said sales tax revenue increased 8 percent last year and that the entire county benefits from added income. “You don’t have to create traffic. We already have it,” Sloma said to county lawmakers. “Build the thing up and help us capitalize.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves — and we have said it, many times. It may have taken awhile, but county officials sound like they have finally figured it out.

• NEW HOTEL: The vacant spot at 310 Rainbow Blvd. hasn’t been much to look at for several years. It was once the site of the popular tethered, helium balloon attraction but not much has happened there since. That could all be changing, though — the Hamister Group is proposing a new $22.5 million hotel project for the spot. One of seven companies to bid on development rights to the property, and now officials from the company, city and state have to negotiate a development agreement. If all goes well, construction on the hotel could start next year. As Christopher Schoepflin, president of the state-run USA Niagara Development Corp., noted, it’s the first non-casino, privately funded, mixed-use building to be considered for construction in the downtown area in more than a generation. Best of all, it’s another step in the rebuilding of downtown Niagara Falls.

JEERS

• MAID MESS: Well we can’t say we didn’t see this coming. When officials from the Niagara Parks Commission in Canada announced Wednesday that they had selected Hornblower Canada Co. to replace Maid of the Mist as the boat-tour operator at the base of Niagara Falls it raised a lot of questions — chief among them: What happens on this side of the border? While Maid of the Mist can still operate from the U.S. side, it stores its boats on the Canadian side. Will it still be able to? No one seems to know right now. Does this signal the end for the Maid of the Mist at the falls? Again, no one seems to know. That’s because the Niagara Parks Commission and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation deal with the issue separately — which has led us to this mess. (Or potential mess, it is early in the process and things could work out for both boat companies — but we’re not betting on it.) It’s unfortunate there’s not an entity like the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission to handle these issues on a binational level.