Niagara Gazette

April 3, 2013

Rainbow developer sought

Staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — The city and state are about to embark on the first step in finding a "preferred developer" for roughly 200,000 square feet of remaining space inside the old Rainbow Centre Mall building downtown. 

The state-run USA Niagara Development Corp. has issued a "request for qualifications" seeking development companies, organizations or development "teams" interested in bringing to life the empty portion of the mall building. 

City officials and representatives from the state-run downtown development agency, USA Niagara Development Corp. have scheduled a press conference this morning at the Niagara Falls Culinary Center where they are expected to discuss the process in greater detail. 

The request for qualifications follows the September opening of the $30 million culinary center which sits on the southern end of the mall building, leaving roughly 200,000 square feet of remaining space yet to be filled. 

Last year, USA Niagara worked with representatives from the Urban Land Institute in an effort to identify prime uses for the remainder of the mall space. The Urban Land Institute's advisory panel, consisting of eight experts from the across the nation in areas like design, real estate and government, interviewed local public officials and private business owners as part of a week-long effort aimed at coming up with the best possible reuse plans for the space. 

The panel's conclusions included scenarios that would directly complement the setting of the space next to the culinary institute and its nearness to Niagara Falls State Park. The panel also made a series of specific design recommendations for the building itself, including turning the its uses “inside-out” to create more active street-level activities. 

Mayor Paul Dyster said the request for qualifications represents one of the initial steps in reshaping the image of the remainder of the structure. He said long-term plans call for a preferred developer to be selected later this year with renovation work starting, if all goes as planned, in 2014. 

"It's going to eliminate one of the symbols of failure of urban renewal downtown," Dyster said of the project. "Like the culinary institute before it, I think it's going to eventually become a symbol of pride for the community." 

According to the request for qualifications packet available on USA Niagara's website, the purpose of the process is to identify a "pre-qualified list of companies (or) teams to receive and respond to a detailed request for proposals." The materials note that the preferred developer would negotiate with USA Niagara and the city to enter into a formal agreement to develop and operate space within the former mall. Interested developers are required to respond to the request for qualifications by May 20.