Niagara Gazette

Local News

December 30, 2013

TOP STORIES (2): Hamister hotel fiasco gets Cuomo's attention

Niagara Gazette — A new hotel is set to go up in the heart of downtown next year, but the deal that brought developer Mark Hamister to town was one of the most controversial topics of the year in Niagara Falls.

Hamister’s company, the Hamister Group, was awarded an incentive package from the state after being selected as the preferred developer by USA Niagara Development Corp. — the state’s local economic development arm — in February of 2012, the result of a procurement process.

That move was approved by the city council with the understanding the Hamister Group would receive a $2.75 million grant from the state and would be given the city-owned parcel at 310 Rainbow Blvd.

During negotiations the company agreed to pay the city $100,000 for the land which was gifted to the city by Baltimore developer David Cordish as part of the deal that saw the state and city take the former Rainbow Centre Mall building across the street.

But this July, when the proposed development agreement came before the council, three lawmakers — Council Chairman Glenn Choolokian, Councilman Sam Fruscione and Councilman Robert Anderson Jr. — decided to table the agreement saying they had concerns the city was not getting enough for the parcel and that agreement did not include other provisions necessary to protect the city.

After that meeting, Hamister said he would delay the project while the concerns of the council members were addressed.

“We are going to try and stay patient for at least another month or two while the appropriate elected officials work out the issues that they have and advance questions,” Hamister said in July.

But for months the three council members continued to vote to keep the measure tabled saying their concerns had not been addressed despite efforts from state officials and Corporation Counsel Craig Johnson as their colleagues on the council, Councilman Charles Walker and Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti, attempted several times to bring the measure to the floor for a vote.

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