By Michele Deluca
NIAGARA FALLS — There’s a new face at One Niagara and many long time news aficionados will surely recognize it. Tony Farina, former investigative reporter for the Courier-Express and TV reporter for a couple of different local newscasts, recently took the reigns of the former Occidental Building, a giant glass structure that rises from the corner of downtown just next to the Rainbow Bridge. Farina, who has spent the last decade or so in government, first as a speech writer for the state governor’s campaign of Dennis Vacco and lately as a second in command for City Comptroller Andrew SanFilippo, is now president of One Niagara, LLC., at 360 Rainbow Blvd. The building, once closed and slated to be demolished and replaced by an underground aquarium, is now a tourist center when visitors can buy souvenirs and get lunch at an international food court. There is also an observation tower on the ninth floor. Farina, a long-time friend to building owner Frank Parlotto, believes his extensive network of friends and experience, built over a long career in media and government, may prove helpful to him in his new post. He took some time to answer a few questions about his new gig at One Niagara, which is expected to reopen for the season by the end of March. QUESTION: So what convinced you to take this job? ANSWER: I’ve known Frank (Parlotto) a long time. In my business I came across a lot of people. Frank was an interesting guy. I’ve always enjoyed him. This past holiday season we were talking and he said he was trying to do a lot of good things up here in Niagara Falls to increase tourism and make his building special. He needed some help doing it and thought I might be the one. I said you have to convince me why I should leave this great position I already have. ••• Q: Obviously he won you over. A: I saw Frank’s building here and I knew he was taking a building basically empty with a large hole in front and he turned it into something. And I think we can eve do better. And this is what I’m here trying to do. I said at the time I want to be the face of that building that this is what I’m trying to do. ••• Q: How have you been doing so far? A: Well, so far I’m encouraged by the reception I’ve received from Mayor Dyster and his administration. I came here with an open mind. I know there’s some history and some problems in the past. I’m going to try to move beyond those and help Niagara falls enhance its status as a place where people can come and have fun. It should be a destination for people from all over western and all over the world. ••• Q: So what’s in it for you? A: Being president of One Niagara offers an interesting bully pulpit for me to speak out and I intend to. I won’t be silent. I’ll talk about what I think needs to be done. I’ll talk to anybody. I’m very excited. I’m looking forward to this challenge. It’s a unique challenge as far as I’m concerned, given my journalism and government background. I think I’m the type of person that can adapt. ••• Q: What did you hear about Niagara Falls, before you came here? A: Well, I know Niagara Falls has been a place where a lot of people think opportunities haven’t been taken advantage of. You have this wonderful resource here. A lot of people see unfulfilled promise. Why can’t it be better. Why do we have so much vacant land, so much undeveloped property? I just think it’s a new day, hopefully. Maybe we can start doing a better job. I hope to contribute to those discussions and be a part of that. ••• Q: How? A: I think the best thing about making things happen is cooperation and partnership. People have to work together. You can’t be at odds fighting over sometimes minor things. If everybody can work together, I think we can develop things a lot more than they’ve been developed in the past. That’s the ideal. If I can be a part of that, that would be a nice legacy to finish out my career ••• Q: Do you have any ideas A: Right now my main focus is on making One Niagara a real showpiece, a one-stop tourist center. I hope to bring in a national restaurant franchise. Talks are underway there. I hope to improve our food court. I hope to offer regular limousine tours to historic Lewiston. We also hope to have retail on a grand scale. ••• Q: What do you mean by “retail on a grand scale?” A: I mean clothing, apparel, jewelry, souvenirs, all of that and more. I’ve recruited “Smokin” Joe Anderson to be a vendor in our building. I’m looking for other venders who want to be a part of what we’re doing here. I think there should be something for everyone. There’s nine floors. The ninth floor looks terrific, the first floor looks great. We hope to develop the second floor soon. Eventually, our hope is to develop all of our floors. I’m working with the city administration on that. ••• Q: What are you thinking for the vacant floors? Business tenants, upscale hostel space, something like that? A: Nothing is off the table. I’ve got a lot of ideas. If I can get the city to agree to allow us to develop all the building a hostel is something I’d consider. I’d like to get the most out of that building. ••• Q: You sound very motivated. A: First of all it’s the greatest location. The ninth floor offers a spectacular unobstructed view of both the Canadian and American sides. When the sun is splashing through the windows up there it’s spectacular. There’s no reason the building can’t be a catalyst for fueling tourism and be a place where people want to come and spend more than one day. We got the space we’ve got the location and we’ve got the tourists, thank God. Let’s give them something to talk about. Contact reporter Michele DeLuca at 282-2311, ext. 2263.