The owner of the former AquaFalls site has withdrawn a proposal to the city that would have razed the nine-story, downtown structure in favor of a parking lot.
With the approach of the tourist season, and a lack of interest in a possible partnership on the part of the City Council, the building now known as One Niagara will remain a part of the downtown skyline.
“I’m going to keep the building standing, at least for the time being,” Frank Parlato Jr. said.
Parlato had previously stated a Monday, March 27, deadline for the city to take action. But now that city officials are busy dealing with the pressing business of the Main Street public safety complex, the time has come to move forward with at least temporary plans, he said.
Seven food vendors serving a variety of cuisine from Indian to Chinese to Mexican food, as well as souvenir shops and entertainment facilities are coming to the One Niagara grounds before the end of spring. They’re all part of what Parlato envisions to be an eventual “welcome center” for the city of Niagara Falls.
The developer also said he expects to have the former 40-foot “Aquapit” completely filled and the perimeter fence removed in three weeks.
“We’re real close now,” Parlato said.
He took over the 2.27-acre property at 360 Rainbow Blvd. in December 2004. Each of the building’s nine, 17,000-square foot floors are currently vacant.
Parlato admitted his plan, which would have tried to establish a public-private partnership with the city in order to operate a surface parking lot, wasn’t the ideal, end use for a property adjacent to Niagara Falls State Park and an international border crossing.
But at least it was something, Parlato said.
He may set up a lounge or coffee shop-type establishment on the building’s ninth floor before the year is out, he added.
The building would likely never be an office building again, since he’s seen little demand for more office space in the city.
Several potential buyers have made offers for the property, Parlato said, including a developer from China.
Another purchaser would have taken the property off the tax rolls had a deal gone through, he added. Two other interested parties included a developer from Lebanon and a U.S. investor.
Mayor Vince Anello, who had been authorized by the City Council to begin negotiating with Parlato on the parking lot proposal, said his administration remains interested in a possible deal.
But he also appreciates a private business owner must make decision in preparation for the future.
“I think if any businessman wants to prepare for the tourist season, I think that’s great,” Anello said.
City Councilmember Sam Fruscione, who originally said the former Oxy building should come down, said he was skeptical of the parking lot proposal initially because of questions surrounding a possible partnership between the city and Parlato.
Under the city charter, a private landowner cannot operate a surface lot in the city. It may have also been illegal for the city to enter into such a partnership, Fruscione said.
The ongoing issues with the municipal services complex are taking much of the council’s attention, he added.
Parlato said his view of his relationship with the city has changed since he originally took over the property.
He realizes he doesn’t need the city’s help, the city needs his.
“I’m not a beggar,” he said, “I’m a giver now.”