By DON GLYNN don.glynn@niagara-gazette
Niagara Gazette — Passersby might get the impression that work has been halted on the extensive renovation of Hotel Niagara, at First Street and Rainbow Boulevard. That’s not the case.
While it’s obvious that no construction is under way, developer Harry Stinson has already spent considerable time in pursuing important elements of the estimated $20 million project. “It’s been worth the time to find out more about the county’s Industrial Development Agency and historic tax credits available,” he said. He does concede that, in retrospect, he may have been overly optimistic in his timeframe for opening Hotel Niagara. But he chalks that up to his deep-rooted excitement about the potential for the downtown investment.
At present, Stinson is preoccupied with another $20 million project, completing condominiums in Hamilton, Ont. When that is finished — hopefully soon, he added — his full-time attention will focus on Hotel Niagara. “It’s more cost effective to get a project done and then move on to the next one,” he explained.
To date, much of the design work and budgeting process for the hotel here has been completed. Stinson discounted any talk that, as a Canadian businessman venturing into the U.S. market, he may have encountered problems stemming from the different procedures and requirement in financing. That has not been any obstacle, Stinson said, adding he has been given full cooperation in securing all approvals.
Laura Magee, a spokesperson for the USA Niagara Development Corp., a subsidiary of the Empire State Development, is not formally involved with hotel project now but she said the agency is “dedicated to the support and promotion of economic development initiatives in Niagara Falls. Magee added the agency has had ongoing dialogue with the developer.
“As far as we’re concerned, it might be on hold but at the same time there is a lot completed on design, pricing and budgeting,” said Anthny D’Auria, a founded and executive vice president of the Waterbourne Group of Companies, the construction advisors on the project. “It’s a fact that (Stinson) has been putting together the final pieces of the financing (package) and he has been working on that diligently.”
Stinson was among 10 bidders in late April 2011 when the hotel went on the auction block. Jamal Kara, a Vancouver, B.C.-based businessman offering $1.25 million was the successful bidder with Stinson close behind that mark. Subsequently, Kara opted to withdraw from the project and Stinson quickly moved to buy him out.
Last November, Stinson conducted a tour at the hotel for members of the Buffalo Niagara Preservation during the group’s annual meeting at the nearby Niagara Falls Culinary Institute on Old Falls Street. During that tour, Stinson talked at length about his grandiose plans to make the facility unique among hotels on either side of the border. He also predicted that the hotel would be open this year.
From the day he laid eyes on the vacant building, Stinson says he was thrilled by its potential. He noted its proximity to the American Rapids Bridge to Goat Island, the Niagara Falls State Park and the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel, Fourth Street.