|By Thomas Prohaska, The Buffalo News,
N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 13, 2013--The long-vacant Moore Business Forms plant is to be turned into an 84-room hotel, its owner said today while applying for tax breaks.
In addition, owners of the Comfort Inn -- The Pointe are seeking assistance with a four-year, top-to-bottom renovation of the 117-room hotel.
The former Moore plant at 900 Buffalo Ave. is to become an 84-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel, according to owner B.F. Patel, who also owns the Niagara Falls EconoLodge.
Patel's $6.65 million project involves adding a third story to the plant, his son Nirel Patel told the IDA board.
The old factory is the first large building on the right as drivers exit the Robert Moses Parkway into downtown Niagara Falls. Nirel Patel said converting it to an upscale hotel will make a much better first impression.
"This will be what they see when they get of the Robert Moses Parkway, instead of a vacant building and a smattering of properties that are unappreciated," he said to chuckles from the board.
"If we're going to start in May or June, next year we'll be open," B.F. Patel said.
He bought the property three years ago.
"My father's dream was to put a Marriott in the City of Niagara Falls," Nirel Patel said.
But he admitted the project will be a heavy lift.
"It's not going to be an easy project to sustain. The Marriott brand requires a lot of upkeep. They don't like owner operation. It's all about management," Nirel Patel said. "The next five years, there's not going to be much profit for my parents. The mortgage is going to be large."
The Patels are asking for an enhancement of the IDA's usual 10-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, arrangement for commercial projects. They are seeking a 100 percent tax exemption for the first two years under the IDA's Opportunity Zone program for depressed downtown properties in the county's three cities before the decade of PILOT payments kicks in.
Nirel Patel called the aid "essential" to the financial plan.
The hotel is to employ 33 people by the third year, and the IDA staff estimated the tax breaks would save the Patels $1.1 million.
Meanwhile, the Comfort Inn, near the entrance to Niagara Falls State Park, still has its original furnishings, and $4 million will have to be invested to bring "an entirely new look to the property to bring it up to Choice standards," General manager Tricia Mezhir said.
She said the improvements are necessary to keep Choice Hotels from revoking the Comfort Inn brand from the 23-year-old facility.
She told the board that the Choice Hotels chain is looking to drop 10 percent of the hotels that carry its brands.
"There would be a tremendous loss of employment if we lose the flag," Mezhir said.
All the rooms would be updated with new lights, carpeting, bathrooms, air conditioning, windows and decorations. The elevators and hallways would be replaced, and new public restrooms and a new exercise room would be built.
Maid of the Mist bought the hotel four years ago, and it currently employs 64 people, 47 of them part-time. IDA board member Stephen F. Brady wasn't thrilled with the request for a 10-year PILOT and sales tax exemptions on the construction materials and new furnishings.
"I'm going to support this because of the jobs issue. I realize this isn't an insignificant effort, but some might argue in some ways, it's maintenance," Brady said.
IDA counsel Mark J. Gabriele said that like any other IDA project, the property tax break will be applied only to any increase in assessed value that results from the renovation.
The IDA staff estimated that Maid of the Mist would save $743,000 over the next decade, with $183,000 of that from the sales tax exemption.
The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency will hold public hearings in Niagara Falls City Hall March 6 on both projects, with votes expected March 13 at the agency's next meeting.
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