|By Mark Scheer, Niagara Gazette, Niagara
Falls, N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 23, 2012--NIAGARA FALLS -- A new $22.5 million hotel project has been proposed for the site of a now-defunct balloon ride in downtown Niagara Falls.
State economic development officials on Wednesday recommended The Hamister Group, Inc. receive preferred developer status for the one-acre parcel located at 310 Rainbow Blvd, the former home of the Great American Balloon Co.
The Hamister Group -- one of seven companies involved in a formal bidding process for the development rights to the property -- has proposed constructing a 109,000-square foot, multi-story building that would feature 105 upscale hotel rooms, 24 market-rate residential units and retail space on the ground floor.
The company, whose principal owner was involved in a failed bid to purchase the Buffalo Sabres several years ago, has managed health care facilities in Western New York and other parts of the country for more than 30 years. In recent years, it has expanded its portfolio to include hotel management and currently operates ten hotels in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Kentucky under flagships such as the Marriott, Hilton, Intercontinental and Choice.
During a presentation for city lawmakers on Wednesday, Christopher Schoepflin, president of the state-run USA Niagara Development Corp., said the project, if given the final go-ahead, would represent the first significant, non-casino mixed-use building to be constructed in the downtown area in "over a generation."
The hotel is not yet a done deal. City council members on Wednesday agreed to accept The Hamister Group as the preferred developer for the site. The decision clears the way for attorneys from the company, the city and the state to negotiate a formal development agreement. Schoepflin said he's expecting that process to take about 120 days. If all goes as planned and a final deal gets done construction could begin in 2013.
(c)2012 the Niagara Gazette (Niagara Falls, N.Y.)
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