The Niagara Falls Planning Board gave the developer of the former Occidental Chemical building on Rainbow Boulevard South 30 days to remove illegal signs on the nine-story structure, but approved a series of renovations that are already under way.
The unanimous vote was one of a series of steps One Niagara developer, Frank Parlato Jr., must take to bring the building back in line with city ordinances that he bypassed when he signed a “stipulation of settlement” with the city in April.
The board’s decision gave consent to use the first floor of the glass structure as a tourist destination with food, souvenir and tour vendors as Parlato has been operating it since spring.
“Whatever we can do to make it legal, we should do,” said Planning Board member Matteo Anello during the vote.
The board’s vote included a condition that the developer pave a gravel parking lot on the site and remove large signs on the building that violate the city’s ordinances and were turned down by the Niagara Falls State Park.
Paul Grenga, an attorney for One Niagara, told the board Parlato expects to close the building for the winter season at the end of the month. He told the board that the building will need signs to attract tourists in the next few weeks as the developer hires a contractor to build legal signs.
“Everybody thinks the money is in the lot,” Grenga said. “The money is not in the lot. ... What drives that business is attracting people into the lot and driving people into that building.”
Parlato expects to reopen the building next spring.
Grenga said the site plan calls for adding additional drainage to the site, paving the parking lot and putting in new landscaping. Additional work to the building would likely have to go before the board again.
Plans to allow a tour company, Over the Falls Tours, which is already operating in the building, to continue to sell tours from the site will also go before the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals next week.
The building — which was once the site of the failed AquaFalls project to construct an underground aquarium — has been a source of contention for the city this summer and led to its condemnation of the site in August. The city later granted a new certificate of compliance for the building after Parlato fixed several code violations.
Planning Board member Timothy Polka abstained from voting on the site plan, although he said he supported the project.
“I still don’t think you guys have a plan on what you guys want to do there,” Polka said. “I just don’t think it’s professionally presented to us.”