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Niagara County Community College Selects the First Floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel Niagara Falls
 as Home for New Hospitality and Tourism Institute

By Paul Westmoore, The Buffalo News, N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Dec. 20, 2007 - Niagara County Community College has something big cooking for downtown Niagara Falls.

College trustees Monday voted to authorize NCCC President James P. Klyczek to negotiate a lease to open a new hospitality school in the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Klyczek said he hopes as many as 600 students will one day cut their teeth in culinary, tourism and business management programs at what will be called the NCCC Hospitality and Tourism Institute.

The institute will occupy a large swath of the first floor of the hotel and, local development officials hope, help breathe new life into downtowns.

It will be sandwiched between Niagara Falls State Park and the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel.

"I'm glad they made the right decision to come to Niagara Falls," said City Councilman Sam Fruscione, one of several city officials who lobbied college leaders. Sites in Lewiston and North Tonawanda also had been considered, as well as a site on the NCCC campus in Sanborn.

"I think it's a good thing for the downtown area," Fruscione said. "It gives the tourists another place to check out. It creates an international location for the college itself. If you want to send your kids to a culinary school, why wouldn't you want to send your kids to Niagara Falls?

College trustees voted, 8-0, to select the Crowne Plaza.

Trustees also voted to direct Klyczek to pursue the financing needed to convert 40,000 square feet of the hotel into the institute. The project is expected to cost about $10.5 million.

Michael McBride is the chief executive officer of Namwest Inc., the Phoenix, Ariz., company that owns the Crowne Plaza and made a presentation to college trustees.

"We thought of something like this when we first came up here," McBride said. "We'd checked out similar situations in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Napa, Calif., which worked out very well. We saw it in a big, upscale mall called the Galleria where the Scottsdale Culinary Institute went in. It worked out great."

The partnership with NCCC works out to the Crowne's advantage, McBride said.

"We won't be running their operation, but they'll help us run some of ours. NCCC will take care of our food and beverages. They will be our official hotel restaurant."

The Crowne Plaza was selected because the hotel is in the county's main tourism area and the property would remain on the tax rolls, Klyczek said.

Klyczek said the school would love to have the institute up and running by late summer.

The institute will include an 80- to-100-seat restaurant, more than six kitchens, a retail deli, a bakery and possibly a wine store run by Niagara Wine Trail members.

Staff writer Denise Jewell Gee contributed to this report.

pwestmoore@buffnews.com

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