Niagara Gazette

Opinion

October 15, 2012

HIGGS: Wait! There's more to cheer about

Niagara Gazette — Last week I told about my experience with the Urban Land institute Foundation and their week-long visit to Niagara Falls to tour, meet some interested stakeholders and offer some suggestions. It was all about some possible reuse for the inside of the former Rainbow Centre.

They talked about a flexible structure with smaller tenant spaces, safe parking, breaking up the building and returning it to human scale. They state malls nationwide are shutting down, reimagining themselves and removing the concrete block look. Of course this would involve opening up the upper levels with the use of glass enclosures to let daylight inside and allow people outside to see the inside and what there is to offer. That last one is long overdue.

The panel did not stop with just the building reuse. The architects in the group displayed easy to understand diagrams of new street extensions, pedestrian elements, improved public spaces and plazas where there would be something on or around every corner and positive signage was also discussed.

My interest peaked when they mentioned extending Mayor Michael O’Laughlin Street all the way to Rainbow Boulevard, passing through the Rainbow Centre creating a covered pedestrian walkway to lure visitors from the state park into the city via another path and the reverse. Along this walkway would be entrances to the centre itself, plus small shops and eating establishments with outdoor capabilities. parking would remain as it is and perhaps be extended to the roof. How about solar panels up there?

One panel member stated the first view the visitor from Canada has of the U.S. is not inspiring or encouragement for a longer stay.

Traffic needs to flow better, directing visitors out of the state park into the city via Old Falls Street or the proposed extended O’Laughlin Street. This would encourage development of the former Teletech building and create circulation of visitors throughout the area.

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