Niagara Gazette — Local officials are getting some help this week in figuring out what to do with vacant space inside the old Rainbow Centre Mall building.
Representatives from the Urban Land Institute, a non-profit research organization that focuses on the reasonable use of land in communities worldwide, are conducting a week-long analysis of potential reuses for roughly 200,000-square-feet of available space remaining inside the old mall. The Niagara Falls Culinary Institute, where students began taking classes earlier this month, takes up 90,000-square-feet of the building.
The panel's five day visit — with a price tag of $125,000 — will give potential investors more confidence in building in downtown Niagara Falls, Sam Hoyt, Regional President of Empire State Development, said.
"There isn't a developer on the local level, the national level or, frankly, the international level, who isn't well familiar with the Urban Land Institute," he said.
USA Niagara Development Corp., the state agency working to improve downtown Niagara Falls, voted to contribute $65,000 for the study at its July board meeting. National Grid is contributing $40,000 and the Urban Land Institute Foundation is putting in $20,000.
"We haven't done enough with this key piece of property, but there is momentum," Hoyt said. "This will help us figure out how to best harness that momentum."
The panel will be working with officials from the city and USA Niagara Development Corp. during its stay and members have been asked to study the property and solicit input from elected officials and private business owners in and around Niagara Falls. The panel is expected to present a summary of its conclusions and recommendations at week's end. Panel members joined local and state officials to discuss their upcoming work during a welcoming reception held Monday at Conference Center Niagara Falls.
Glenda Hood, the former three-term mayor of Orlando, Fla. will act as chair of the panel.