TOP 10: Downtown projects drawing major hotel brands to Falls (No. 3)

Hotel architect Jonathan Morris speaks at city hall in November on the Hamister Group’s downtown hotel project. 

The building permit for Hamister Group’s downtown hotel was issued Wednesday by the city’s code enforcement department, putting the project on schedule to break ground in July.

At a permitting fee of $28,000, the permit was awarded to Buffalo contractor R&P Oak Hill Development, LLC, the group selected by Hamister to erect the 128-room Hyatt Place Hotel at 310 Rainbow Blvd.

Chairman and CEO of Hamister Group, Mark E. Hamister, said his company has previously utilized Oak Hill’s services and been “extremely satisfied.”

“I am thrilled to be partnering with R&P Oak Hill Development,” Hamister said in a press release. “There are many great projects underway in downtown Niagara Falls and we are excited to be a part of the turnaround of this great city.”

Mayor Paul A. Dyster said the issuance of a building permit for the construction of a permanent structure on the property triggers the license termination of J.D. Gifts, the firm that currently occupies the Rainbow Boulevard property where Hamister plans to construct the multi-story hotel and mixed-use building. J.D. Gifts has for years operated a private parking lot on the premises. The notice of termination was sent Wednesday, Dyster said, and given the fulfillment of financial and clerical contingencies, J.D. Giflts will be expected to vacate the property within a 30-day window.

“The order of operations is a complex bunch of steps in rapid succession,” Dyster said.

Hotel plans were initially announced in 2011, when the state-run USA Niagara Development Corp. and Empire State Development Corp. selected Hamister to develop lot four of the city’s newly acquired Rainbow Boulevard parcel. 

Four years later, the Hamister Group has acquired the site at a cost of $100,000 and secured $4.25 million in Niagara County Industrial Development Agency sales and mortgage recording tax abatements over the next decade. 

Some $3.85 million in public assistance, sourced from the Buffalo Regional Innovation Cluster, an appropriation of the 2014-15 New York State budget, will come from Empire State Development. USA Niagara President Christopher J. Schoepflin said, because of the appropriation, his organization will expend zero corporate funds on the project.

Over those four years, total project costs have risen from $27 million to $35.7 million, while projected job numbers have fallen from 70 full-time equivalent positions to 35. According to Hamister’s application for assistance through the NCIDA, the hotel will annually generate $205,000 in occupancy taxes, $520,000 in sales tax revenues and issue an annual payroll estimated at $1.1 million.

The hotel’s plans were formally amended last month by USA Niagara and subsequently the Niagara Fall City Council. As it stands, the hotel will include six stories, a top floor with 14,500 square-feet of meeting and banquet space, an outdoor patio and 7,000 square feet of retail space with frontage on Old Falls Street.

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