Just over three months after spending $14 million to purchase the Falls real estate holdings of Lewiston businessman Joe "Smokin' Joe" Anderson, USA Niagara Development Corp., the state-run agency tasked with overseeing development in the city has issued a request for proposals to redevelop four mixed-use former Anderson properties in the 400 and 500 blocks of Third Street and a Main Street parcel that was home to the ill-fated Snow Park.
The agency said it was seeking proposals for the "the acquisition, rehabilitation/restoration and reuse" of the properties, all of which are located in close proximity to one another and "represent a unique opportunity to contribute to the redevelopment of a historic commercial district in an iconic American city."
USAN acquired 32 parcels, covering 11 acres of mostly prime South End property, from Anderson with funding from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion Phase II program.
“This is an opportunity to partner on development that will return property in downtown Niagara Falls to a productive use and add to the neighborhood fabric of Third Street,” USAN President Anthony Vilardo said. “We look forward to reviewing proposals that will help rebuild this historic neighborhood.”
Vilardo said the deadline for proposals is Sept. 13.
USAN said it is looking for proposals involving residential and small-scale retail and services uses. The agency notes that any development plan should be "pedestrian-oriented" and "conform to the street’s existing and established character."
"These plans will address a shortage of market rate housing and help to improve and advance retail and commercial activity downtown," Vilardo said.
Falls Mayor Paul Dyster hailed the announcement.
"I think it's responsive to the public's expectations," the mayor said. "Some of these properties could be brought into operation relatively quickly and at relatively little expense."
USAN noted, in its announcement, that Third Street was one of the few areas to be spared "the razing/clearance of much of downtown’s historic buildings to make way for a number of ill-fated large-scale development projects" as part of the city's urban renewal program in the 1970s. Third Street currently has the largest intact collection of mixed-use and commercial buildings in downtown Niagara Falls.
The Anderson acquisition represented more than a quarter of USAN's $40 million plus capital budget for fiscal 2019-20. It represented virtually the agency's entire budget for acquisitions in the upcoming fiscal year.
Previous investments by USAN on Third Street have included $3.7 million in streetscape upgrades in 2005 to make the street more walkable and welcoming. USAN has also established a $2 million grant program to encourage mixed-use development along the street.
Anderson, a prominent Tuscarora Nation businessman, had been one of the largest downtown property owners in the city.