Niagara Gazette

Local News

July 6, 2013

Good news hints at better days for Niagara Falls

Niagara Gazette — Visitors to Niagara Falls may soon find themselves zip-lining in the Niagara Gorge, biking along the rushing river and staying in a new hotel room, all after being drawn to town by fresh advertising. They might even drive past a new factory in this city swollen then shriveled by industry.

Could it be a second honeymoon for the former Honeymoon Capital of the World?

A mini-commercial building boom, a series of headline-grabbing initiatives and a cash windfall with the settlement of a dispute with the Seneca Indian Nation seem to point to better days for this careworn city next to one of the world's great natural attractions — even if it remains tempered by the urban anchors of population loss and blight.

"The thing that makes us different, and it gives me hope as mayor of the city of Niagara Falls, is that by comparison to other places, we have way more assets to try to revitalize the city," Mayor Paul Dyster said this week. "It should be easier here because we have that great natural resource."

It has been anything but easy for the city since the hydropower-fueled industrial boom that pumped the population as high as 106,000 in the early 1960s began its decline, shedding jobs by the thousands. Census estimates put the population at a troubling 49,722 today.

So as the tourism side works to build a brand and attract free-spending visitors from around the world, there are parallel efforts to put permanent residents into a bloated supply of vacant housing by improving roads and lighting and offering amenities like affordable artist studios. Recently announced plans to move part of a riverfront parkway will reconnect neighborhoods with the water, Dyster said.

"It's trying to show off our quality of life in the city and convince people that this is a good place to come and live," said the mayor, who listed the housing overstock, much of it old and shabby, as the city's biggest challenge.

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