Niagara Gazette

October 3, 2013

Downtown Niagara Falls Development Challenge to build up Falls

Staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — It's a competition which should leave downtown Niagara Falls the ultimate winner.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Thursday that the state and the City of Niagara Falls will partner to launch the Downtown Niagara Falls Development Challenge, a major competition to select a team of world-class designers, developers and operators to envision and develop signature projects in the downtown area that will attract significant private sector investment and accelerate the revitalization of Niagara Falls.

The goal of the competition is to transform downtown Niagara Falls into the ultimate tourist destination to attract and retain visitors from around the world, by building and enhancing the amenities and attractions available in the area.

“With the launch of this competition, we are challenging talented designers and developers to dream up and propose grand ideas to transform the downtown Niagara Falls area into a premier destination that will attract tourists and fuel private investment,” Cuomo said. “This competition is a real opportunity for champions in the development and investment industries to face off right here in the Falls with the best ideas to be turned into reality. We are looking for creative and innovative projects that will spur private development and at the end of day, entice visitors to the area so that they will stay longer and spend more in the community.”

Mayor Paul Dyster added, “This is an innovative competition to generate progress in Niagara Falls. The governor’s contest will match concept against concept with the best projects winning. Recently we have seen a genuine interest in investing in downtown Niagara Falls. This transformative commitment of $40 million will jumpstart the additional private development needed to create an exciting family friendly Niagara Falls experience.”

Currently, Niagara Falls attracts eight million visitors annually — more than most U.S. national parks and nearly double the draw of the Grand Canyon — but overnight stays and visitor spending is less in the region. This loss in revenue can be traced to the limited number and quality of amenities in the Niagara Falls area which hamper the region’s ability to fully capitalize on the millions of visits to the region.

The Downtown Niagara Falls Development Challenge will address this need by creating a compelling plan to drive tourism growth and spur development of improved tourist amenities and more innovative programming and attractions. The competition is aimed at development that will entice tourists to stay longer and spend more while experiencing the natural, cultural, heritage, architectural and retail opportunities available throughout the region, in addition to the natural wonder of Niagara Falls.

A $40 million fund will support the cost of the competition and incentives for development. The fund will consist of $4 million per year from the City of Niagara Falls casino revenue funds matched by $4 million per year from the State’s Buffalo Billion investment for five years. Major private investment can be supported by the fund if it leverages public resources; creates significant downtown development, tourist amenities or destination attractions in the downtown area; and is consistent with the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council’s Buffalo Billion Investment Plan, the City’s Comprehensive Plan and USA Niagara Development Corporation (USA Niagara) design standards.

The competition selection committee will be a partnership between the state and city. The members of the committee will be announced at a later date. The committee will be supported by Empire State Development and its subsidiary, USA Niagara, to design the competition, develop a Request for Proposal (RFP) and ultimately negotiate final deals and contracts for each award.

In December, the committee will announce the release of the RFP to design and develop tourism-related amenities and destinations for the competition with responses due in January. The committee will select the best design-development bids and announce the winners shortly thereafter.

Big Red Number $40M Fund that will support the cost of the competition and incentives for winner of competition