Niagara Gazette

Opinion

July 17, 2013

EDITORIAL: Hamister hotel project's a success story

Niagara Gazette — The Niagara Falls City Council majority is standing its ground when it comes to selling a city owned parcel at 310 Rainbow Blvd. as part of a larger effort to build a $25 million multi-story hotel and mixed-use building.

We strongly disagree with their position.

Their concerns about the project are based primarily on the value of the land itself.

While the state-run USA Niagara Development Corp. would like to sell the property — less than an acre in total — to the Buffalo-based Hamister Development Corp. for $100,000, Council members Glenn Choolokian, Sam Fruscione and Robert Anderson Jr. believe it to be worth several times more, perhaps as much as $2 million by City Assessor Jim Bird’s estimate.

While the asking price for the land is important, is not the most important element to be considered here.

As supporters of the project have noted, the potential return of this project is far greater than cash earned off the property transaction.

It’s important to remember: The city did not even own this land until it was gifted to it by Baltimore developer David Cordish when he agreed to release the old Rainbow Centre Mall.

The transfer served as the catalyst for Niagara County Community College’s culinary center, a $25 million development that was funded, in large part, by the state of New York itself. In addition, the agreement resulted in $10 million worth of state-supported improvements to the city’s downtown parking ramp, a long dilapidated structure in dire need of costly repairs the city could not afford on its own.

The Hamister project represents another $25 million investment downtown, with the developer on the hook for $22 million of the total package. The deal represents a 9 to 1 investment ratio, one of the highest in New York, according to state economic development officials. In other words, for every $1 invested by the public entities involved, $9 will be invested by the Hamister group.

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