NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Rainbow Centre Factory Outlet Mall in Niagara Falls is being revitalized. A portion of it has been vacant for 20+ years.

Monday, the USA Niagara board of directors approved the next phase to reimagine the property.

The vacant portion of the Rainbow Mall will soon be transformed into the heart of downtown, opening up the center to pedestrian traffic and moving commercial retailers from inward to outward facing.

There will be 150,000 square feet of leasable commercial space and options for tenants include restaurants, retail, and other tourist attractions, like ticketed cultural attractions.

John Percy moved to Niagara Falls 32 years ago to become the marketing director for the Rainbow Mall. He stayed in the region and is now the president and CEO of Destination Niagara USA. He’s seen the Rainbow Mall through it all.

“To see that now being put forth into a proposal process and moving forward to get rehabilitated is welcome news for us,” said Percy.

The first phase of the redevelopment project happened in 2012 when the Niagara Community College culinary school moved in. Revival of Old Falls Street also happened in recent years.

President of USA Niagara Anthony Vilardo said this second phase will open up the space even more.

“We’re gonna look to reestablish pedestrian access through the center point of this building and really turn the vacant portion of the mall inside out. So now rather than having inward facing leasable commercial space it will now face the street on 1st and 3rd street along with the interior passageway,” said Vilardo.

The tenants are still up in the air, but Vilardo said he’s currently in discussions with three potential end users for the space, who he has have reason to be located in downtown Niagara Falls.

Percy said this project reflects want people want and he’s excited to see what it will do for tourism in the region.

“That gives us a chance to take that public that has been here before and say you can come back and revisit one or two new things or something that was old has been restructured and renewed again,” he said.

The project is expected to take 18 months to finish designing. Once complete, construction will begin. While Vilardo said it’s a bit early to announce a solid opening date, the tentative goal is sometime in 2024.

Kayla Green is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.