Oxy changes take shape
BUSINESS: Owner awaiting completion of construction, city inspections
By Denise Jewell
03 Jun 2006
The nine-story glass building at the corner of Rainbow Boulevard and Niagara Street looks dramatically different than it did a year ago.
A 40-foot hole that had plagued the former Occidental Chemical property since an under funded plan to build an underground aquarium failed has been replaced by a gravel parking lot.
Inside, at least on the first floor, change is also under way. Contractors have been working to rip out walls and replace first floor office space with a food court intended to cater to summer tourists. New entrances will be added to the building to face Niagara Falls State Park.
Frank Parlato hopes to receive approval within a week from city inspectors to move ahead with opening the vacant building back up to the public. In the meantime, Parlato has opened a parking lot on site and last week allowed vendors to operate outside, during Memorial Day weekend.
But he acknowledges the building has a long way to go.
Although he plans to turn the first floor into a thriving food market featuring local vendors, the remaining eight floors will stay vacant for now. He plans to pave the parking lot, but needs to wait until the ground settles to replace the stone lot now on the site.
Parlato also pulled plans for outdoor improvements to the site a day before they were slated to go before the Niagara Falls Planning Board for approval last week. He said he is adding more elements to the designs.
Parlato admits plans for the building have fallen about a year behind where he had hoped to be when he purchased the building in December 2004. He is also nearly a year behind in paying property taxes.
“I inherited kind of a mess. When I first came to town here to buy this thing, I had a certain perspective,” Parlato said. “ I knew that this was a valuable property that had never been developed correctly.”
Last summer, Parlato drew complaints from members of the City Council about the appearance of vending tents and paid parking he allowed on site.
Three citations for violating city codes are still pending against Parlato and the limited liability corporation that owns the building. Chris Mazur, the city’s prosecutor, said that while the city has been pleased to see the elimination of the hole – a factor in the citations – there are still some violations pending.
Parlato said he believes he is close to a resolution with the city on the inspection charges. He is focusing on rapid plans to add kitchen facilities for vendors in the first floor of the building. He has made deals with nearly two dozen local vendors to provide food choices ranging from Italian to Indian cuisine this summer.
Guy Bax, director of the city’s Department of Inspections, confirmed that permits had been given out for the work on the building, but said the first floor would have to be inspected before it could be used for restaurant facilities.
In exchange for space, vendors will pay Parlato a commission of their sales. He estimates work to update the first floor will cost him about $500,000.
“I’m going to make sure that our local people here get a piece of the pie. That’s why I’ve opened the doors not to chains and franchises, but to local vendors,” said Parlato, who has waged a public campaign against the state’s interests in the Niagara region – including the New York Power Authority – by placing signs in his building and writing biting opinion pieces. “You’re going to see that a lot of people from this area are going to get richer.”
Contact Denise Jewell at 282-2311, Ext. 2245
Copyright © Frank Parlato Jr.