Niagara Gazette — Hood said that Niagara Falls officials will need to use the remaining space in the old mall to take advantage of the more than 8 million visitors the Falls host each year.
"It's important that you're able to leverage those numbers and get those people to stay for more than just a few hours," she said.
Hood sees the natural beauty of the Falls and the gorge as attractions that can be part of a more complete experience with great restaurants and shopping, she said.
"There's a lot of opportunities to celebrate that authenticity, that nature, and then to tie a lot of other things to it," she added.
Hood has experience with capitalizing on tourism, with the Walt Disney World Resort being just outside of Orlando. She said that the most important thing for a tourism town is have a good reputation.
"The way to get people to come back to your community is to have a high level of service," she said.
State economic development officials invited the Urban Land Institute to examine the property in hopes of finding suitable uses for the building, which is considered a key parcel in the redevelopment of downtown Niagara Falls. Officials said the ULI has provided similar assistance to other projects across the country, including, most recently, the redevelopment of the former Millard Fillmore Gates Hospital and the Richardson-Olmsted Complex, both in Buffalo.
Mayor Paul Dyster said that before the former owner of the mall, developer David Cordish, gifted the space to the city and Niagara County Community College, the city had relieved him of the obligation to operate the space in traditional retail fashion.
"It was recognition that to revitalize this thing you might have to really change the way you think about the use of the space," Dyster said.