NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) - After seemingly endless controversy over a multi-million dollar hotel deal in Niagara Falls, the City Council voted Monday night to approve the project from developer Mark Hamister.
Aside from the Seneca Niagara Casino, it will be the biggest private investment in Niagara Falls New York since the 1970s.
Councilman Bob Anderson provided the swing vote after getting assurances that the $25 million Hamister hotel project would give Falls residents first crack at the jobs, that it will come with a performance bond that ensures it actually will have 110 hotel rooms, and 24 apartments.
The deal also comes with a reverter clause, which Empire State Development Regional President Sam Hoyt explains, "If for whatever reason the property has to come back to the city, it will come back debt-free."
The city land being purchased by Hamister is where a hot air balloon used to do business. It is one block away from the Hard Rock Cafe, and Hamister's development group is buying it for $100,000, which was a major point of controversy for Falls politicians.
Dan Hamister, Senior Vice President of Hamister Group, LLC said, "This was a competitive process; we put in our best effort bid. Seventy percent of the issues that were presented were already in the document itself."
But council members Glen Choolokian and Sam Fruscione are still skeptical and voted against it.
"I can't vote on something I don't really feel comfortable with. I was elected to represent the taxpayers," Choolokian said.
Some admire the cautious approach.
Resident Donald Supon said, "If you hadn't done what you had done, this city would've taken another bath."
But others think it would've been a shame to let this project slip away with the state pitching in less than $3 million, and 87 percent of the cost coming from private investment.
Former Niagara Falls mayor Vince Anello said, "Which in this area, it's considered a fantastic deal...for the City, not for the developer."
The next step is for the city to draw up and sign the actual contract. Construction is expected to begin this spring with the opening of the new hotel in about two years.
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