NIAGARA, N.Y. (WIVB) — In early 2021, Niagara Falls Redevelopment announced a plan to build a $1.48 billion technology and data hub at the corner of 10th and Falls Street. That spurred a response from the city, which has other plans for the area.
For over 25 years NFR has held 140 acres of property in downtown Niagara Falls.
With little to no development done, the city won the first legal round of an eminent domain battle with NFR to seize a 12-acre parcel of land in the South End.
“The minute that an idea to be proposed for their property comes up, they do exactly what they’ve been doing for the entire time that they’ve had property in the city. They suddenly now have a new plan,” Niagara Mayor Robert Restaino said.
“There were text messages from the local representative to me about building the events center in their location. That building it anywhere else didn’t make sense. Now all of a sudden, that’s all changed,” Restaino said.
On Wednesday, NFR unveiled Urbacon’s proposed Digital Campus phase 1 site plan.
In a statement, NFR, said the “data center development would provide approximately 5,600 construction jobs and more than 500 permanent jobs, along with high technology infrastructure and opportunity.”
In August, the court ruled in favor of the city’s eminent domain seizure. NFR now plans to appeal that ruling, claiming a counter project proposal by the city is speculative, and that the city’s seizure of the land is “unlawful.” Restaino disagrees.
“There’s nothing that we’re doing that stops them from doing a project,” Restaino said. “Eminent domain doesn’t put a lean on the property. Second, the property is not zoned for the project that they want to put in. So, there’s nothing to stop them from filing a site plan with the city, pulling permits for construction, applying to the Zoning Board of Appeals for zoning variance. Have any of those things been done? No.”
In its project proposal, Niagara Falls envisions an event campus including two arenas, a splash pad and more, aiming to keep locals and tourists in the area year-round.
“Time for us, the local government and the residents to start taking matters into our own hands. That means reclaiming some of the property and then working toward development that allows Niagara Falls to stretch out the hospitality season into the winter months. You need indoor venues for that and that’s what our plan is,” Restaino said.
Both projects could technically go forward under what is being called the “Two-Project Solution.” For now, NFR’s appeal process is currently underway.