|By Denise Jewell, The Buffalo News,
N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jul. 19, 2007 - NIAGARA FALLS -- The 12- story former Hotel Niagara on Rainbow Boulevard sold at auction Wednesday for $4.6 million -- double the price the 193- room hotel sold for two years ago.
A Houston couple with plans to bring grandeur back to the building bought the hotel during an auction in which bidding rose by $4 million in 10 minutes.
The auctioneer described the city as undergoing a "renaissance."
"This hotel has a lot of history, and we think it's in an area that's coming back," said new owner James T. Cook Jr., president and chief executive officer of Amidee Capital Group, a real estate investment firm based in Houston. "We'd like to bring it back to what it used to be."
The hotel, at 201 Rainbow Blvd., currently operates under the name Ramada Niagara Hotel. The reserve on the auction was set at $2.45 million.
The hotel was purchased for $2.3 million in 2005 by Niagara Inn Corp., during a foreclosure auction. At the time, the hotel operated as the Travelodge Fallsview and had been at the center of a lawsuit involving unpaid taxes owed to the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency.
Cook and his wife, Judith, said their firm specializes in renovating older buildings.
Judith Cook said she envisions upscale restaurants and shops in the hotel, which is next to the Conference Center Niagara Falls and a few blocks from the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel.
"We want to make it a very unique property, bringing back the history of it," Judith Cook said.
James Cook said the property is the first Amidee Capital has bought in New York State.
The hotel, which opened in 1923, has a two-story lobby with a balcony that overlooks the entrance. On the second floor, a ballroom has a high ceiling with three large chandeliers.
A nightclub in the building known as the White Parrot is now vacant, but operated until earlier this year. A restaurant on the first floor currently is leased to an Indian restaurant.
Gordon J. Greene, who ran the auction for the commercial real estate firm, Chartwell Group, described the location of the building as part of an upand- coming neighborhood.
"It's location -- we're here in Niagara Falls, N.Y. -- is an area that seems to be going through a renaissance. It's been slow in coming," Greene told the bidders before the auction began. "It's hard to find a hotel property today where you can get an attractive price."
Judith Cook said she believes the area can someday rival the Canadian side.
"To be honest, the Canadian side is beautiful," Judith Cook said. "There's no reason why this side cannot be as well."
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