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Condemned building still open for business

Parlato dispute due in Falls court today

Gail Franklin
News Niagara Bureau

23 August 2006

NIAGARA FALLS - The former Occidental Chemical office building was condemned Saturday by the city's Inspections Department, but developer Frank Parlato Jr. said he will allow his tenants to operate food and retail businesses aimed at tourists in the downtown location anyway.

The sign posted on the front door declaring it "unlawful" for any person to occupy or enter the building was largely covered by a poster Tuesday and went unnoticed by dozens of entering tourists. The building at 360 Rainbow Blvd. is across the street from the Niagara Falls State Park.

Mayor Vince Anello said the matter is expected to go before a city judge today.

"We have concerns, and the Inspections Department is doing [its] job," Anello said late Tuesday.

Parlato has operated the nine-story building - which he renamed Niagara Center - for most of the summer under a temporary certificate of occupancy issued in June.

He also has an April 25 "stipulation of settlement" with the city in which he agreed to bring his building up to safety and fire codes and apply for various permits and site plan approvals by October. In exchange, the city would drop its lawsuit over sidewalk, vendor and parking code violations filed last year in City Court, and Parlato would be able to operate throughout the summer "as if said approvals have been granted," according to the document.

"I'm not going to close this building up because there's no life safety issues at stake here," Parlato said Tuesday. "I've done everything in the agreement and they can't just come and slap signs around. . . . If you read [the agreement], you will see that they have to give me 10 days' notice if there is a violation and there has been no communication."

Under that agreement, Parlato has been able to renovate the first floor and operate the gravel space in front of the building as a paid parking lot without the permits and approvals usually required. Paul Grenga, Parlato's attorney, negotiated the city agreement, and said last week he was hoping it would go before the Planning Board for site plan approval next month.

Last week, Parlato received a building code variance from the state's Western Regional Board of Review on the condition he make some changes to the building so it would comply with the fire safety code.

In July, several city inspectors told the City Council - which learned of the agreement two months after it was signed - that the building was "fully compliant" with the building code. But last week city inspectors Patrick Ciccarelli and George Amendola and city fire investigator Robert Serpa inspected the structure and found about a dozen items - from electrical to fire safety - that need to be altered before a certificate can be issued, Ciccarelli said.

When asked why the building had been issued a certificate based upon code compliancy if it still was not code compliant and now is considered condemned, Anello said: "Everyone will know the whole story [today] in front of the judge. Everything will be based on the facts."

The condemnation posting on the building is signed by City Inspections Director Guy Bax, who could not be reached Tuesday.

Parlato took over the building - also the site of a failed underground aquarium project under previous developers - in 2004 with then-partner G. Steven Pigeon through a limited-liability corporation called One Niagara. Parlato was in arrears for $700,000 in county, city and school property taxes as of the beginning of this month.








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