By Mark Scheer
Niagara Gazette — A Niagara Falls hotelier would like to open a new Courtyard Marriott hotel at a main entranceway into the city by next summer.
Econolodge owner B.F. Patel and his son, Nirel, told members of the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency's Board of Directors on Wednesday that if all goes as planned they will begin turning the old Moore Business Forms office building at 900 Buffalo Ave. into a upscale, three-story hotel by May or June. The building's owners said they are expecting the entire project to be completed in about six months from the start of construction.
"This is what's going to be seen as soon as visitors come to the city of Niagara Falls," Nirel Patel said. "The second they come off the Robert Moses Parkway, this is going to be what welcomes them to the city of Niagara Falls.
The Patel family, through its company, Indian Ocean, LLC, has requested tax break assistance through the NCIDA for the $6.65 million project.
The proposed hotel would be located on a triangular parcel that is situated between Buffalo Avenue, John B. Daly Boulevard and Rainbow Boulevard, just off the parkway exit into the city. Indian Ocean, LLC purchase the site from its former owner, Moore Wallace North America, in 2010.
The new owners have been preparing to develop a hotel on the site for several years. B.F. Patel said both floors of the existing building have been "gutted," removing all remnants of the former office space interior.
His company's plan calls for construction of 84 hotel rooms and other amenities on site in keeping with Marriott standards. It also involves construction of a third floor on the existing building. The project is expected to result in the creation of 24 full-time and nine part-time jobs once completed, with an estimated total annual payroll by the end of year three of $704,000.
"My father's dream has been to put a Marriott hotel in the city of Niagara Falls," Nirel Patel said.
Indian Ocean, LLC has requested an enhanced commercial payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement through the NCIDA. The deal, if approved by the board, would provide the hotel's owners with property tax exemptions for the existing assessment and improvements based on standard commercial PILOT at an estimated value of $760,000. Sales tax exemptions on construction and building furnishings would be offered as well at an estimated savings to the owner of $340,000.
NCIDA officials estimate that the owners would pay $164,000 in real property taxes by the end of the proposed PILOT. With the value of the jobs to be created, annual value of "indirect and induced jobs created," sales tax to be generated and an estimated $2 million in "economic activity" at the site, the return to the community will be roughly $3.37 million, according to the agency.
The Patel family also has requested a two-year tax-free period for the property which would be available under the NCIDA's Opportunity Zone Program. Businesses located in Opportunity Zones within the county's three cities are eligible for additional tax breaks and other incentives. If the request is granted, the family would be allowed to open and operate the hotel during the two-year period without paying any property taxes or reduced PILOT payments.
NCIDA attorney Mark Gabriele said the package, if approved by the board, would be put in place in advance of an enhanced five-year PILOT, which would kick in at the end of the two-year Opportunity Zone arrangement.
Nirel Patel suggested, due to the high standards involved in operating a hotel within the Marriot chain, the initial costs will be substantial and profits minimal during the hotel's start-up phase. He noted that the property will be owned by his family, but managed by Marriott as is the company's standard.
Sue Langdon, director of project development at the NCIDA, said officials at her agency will discuss the terms of any tax break agreements for the project with officials from the city of Niagara Falls before moving forward. She indicated that the city has been supportive of the Patel family's efforts during the application process.
The board set a public hearing on Indian Ocean's application for 3:45 p.m., March 6 at Niagara Falls City Hall, 745 Main St.
The hearing is a preliminary step in the formal approval process. The company's application will be considered for final approval by the board once public comments have been received.