Niagara Gazette

Local News

September 3, 2013

Council majority making progress on Hamister project

Niagara Gazette — Talks surrounding a major downtown hotel project have remained positive and give city lawmakers confidence that negotiations can move forward.

City Council Chairman Glenn Choolokian said that after several meetings with Corporation Counsel Craig Johnson he feels that some of the concerns that he and his colleagues of the council majority — Councilman Sam Fruscione and Councilman Robert Anderson Jr. — have aired in regards to the proposed development agreement between Buffalo developer Hamister Group, USA Niagara Development Corp. and the city are being addressed.

Hamister was chosen as the preferred developer after a state procurement process and has announced plans to build a $26 million mixed-use building on the  city-owned plot located at 310 Rainbow Blvd. that would include a hotel, apartments retail and restaurants.

"I think we're moving in the right direction," Choolokian said.

The majority voted to table a resolution in July that would allow Mayor Paul Dyster's administration to sign off on a development agreement executed by Hamister, USA Niagara and the city, citing concerns over the broad power the resolution would give Dyster and the $100,000 the developer would pay, a price set below the land's assessed value as part of an incentives package put together for the deal.

Choolokian said he, Fruscione and Anderson wanted make sure the city did not make a mistake in giving away too much in the deal as has happened in the past.

"We could have voted this project down if we didn't like it," Choolokian said. "We love projects. We just want to make sure the taxpayers come first and don't get stuck with another bad deal."

Johnson said he has had a series of meetings with Choolokian and Fruscione in an effort to answer their questions and concerns while giving an update on negotiations at Tuesday's council meeting.

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