events and activities each year, enjoyed by visitors and residents alike. "What else is there to do after seeing the Falls?" Look no farther than Old Falls Street, which is becoming a true gateway to activities throughout our downtown.
When Niagara County Community College's Niagara Falls Culinary Institute opens on Old Falls Street this fall, the momentum will only continue. Of course, I look forward to a shining new facility that will help redefine the market here, right next to all forms of real-world opportunities for learning experiences in our burgeoning tourist district. I welcome the street-level venues such as a new restaurant, pastry shop, deli, and book store that will build permanence to the Old Falls streetscape. But most importantly, I look forward to the day when seeing a young person—or those re-training for a new career—walking the streets of downtown in "chef's whites" is a common day occurrence. They will represent the next generation of entrepreneurs here, teeming with ideas on new venues for our visitors and residents. Now Niagara University is undertaking a study to see what role they might play in the future of downtown. I say, "bring it on;" partnerships with academic institutions are at the heart of 21st century economic development.
And the private sector is responding to this momentum. Thanks to our partnership with USA Niagara Development Corporation, we will soon be breathing new life into another downtown parcel that we acquired as a part of the Culinary Institute project: the property at 310 Rainbow Boulevard, the parcel I hope will soon no longer be referred to as "the former balloon parcel". Let's agree it's not "the former" anything; it's part of the future that we've waited a generation to see happen downtown.
After issuing a request for proposals, we have designated a preferred developer and begun negotiations for the development of a new $22.5 million mixed-use building that will house a hotel, restaurant and retail facilities, as well as new market-rate apartments.
Seven different private developers expressed interest in building on the balloon parcel. I think that's a pretty good indication that we're getting our "mojo" back. We're changing the way people look at Niagara Falls by changing the way they look at our downtown.
The next task at hand will be to redevelop the balance of the former Rainbow Centre Mall; accounting for about 200,000 square feet of space that will remain after the completion of the Culinary Institute. As part of the initial phase of the Culinary project, we worked to fully gut the space, remove asbestos and mold, and replace leaking skylights to create a "build-ready box" for new development. We're also undertaking a major rehab of the attached parking garage and adding a new elevator to make its 1,600 parking spaces more accessible to the new school, the remaining portion of the mall, and the adjoining downtown venues. Over the next few months, we'll be working with experts from the Urban Land Institute to gather ideas from the public and development community for that space. Once we've assembled a series of possible re-use scenarios for the property, we'll issue a request for proposals to make it happen, just as we did so successfully with the balloon parcel.
Give us 18 MONTHS from when we regained full ownership of the former mall and the balloon parcel, and I'm proud to say we'll show you more development activity than has been seen there in the preceding 18 YEARS!
We need to keep re-inventing our downtown core—from how we address our parking resources, to developing more sophisticated hotel and meeting spaces, to realizing new residential and retail space to build upon successes at the Giacomo, the Jefferson Apartments, and along Third Street. New places to stay, new places to eat and shop, new places to live—this is what our public investments are beginning to yield, and I pledge to you tonight that I will continue to strive to keep that forward momentum going as long as I am your Mayor.
Some people question why we focus so much on the south end. Remember, it's the gateway for millions of people who are visiting our city. We need to make sure we're giving them places to spend their dollars, so that we have the funds to lift up the rest of Niagara Falls. Increased business activity downtown is the spark that will light up our entire city.
So I encourage all our residents to participate in the growth and renewal that is transforming downtown: experience the events; stop in the restaurants or bars; plan to take a community class at the culinary school; take a walk around Old Falls Street later this year. After all, these investments are for you, and nothing can enrich a tourist's experience more than local food, local products, and local residents. Our community's pride and participation in our tourism industry will actually help foster an environment that leads to even more investment and more jobs for our community.
A couple of miles from downtown, we're working with the Honeywell Corporation and another private developer to bring new life to two old industrial sites off Highland Avenue, known as "Tract I" and "Tract II." Once these sites are cleaned up, they'll become home to a community park, retail stores and a business incubator. This will be a long-awaited and well-deserved investment in the north end, and a compliment to the new housing at Hope VI.
Over the past few years, some have criticized our strategy of using government dollars to spur private investment. No one wants to spend public money when it isn't needed. But decades of decline had shaken people's confidence in our city. Before we could attract new investment to our city, we had to invest in ourselves by creating shovel-ready, prime development space and first-class public realm infrastructure. Now we can see that the strategy is working.
We've achieved a truly admirable list of accomplishments--but we recognize there's so much more to do.
Casino revenues have been a critical piece of the puzzle. During my administration, we've used casino dollars wisely to do things that our regular budget couldn't sustain. We've paved streets. We've sponsored exciting events downtown that have generated millions of dollars in activity for hotels and restaurants. We've demolished dangerous and dilapidated buildings. We've invested in green industries. We've invested in building a new terminal at the Niagara Falls Airport. We've bought DPW equipment and public safety vehicles. We've assisted in the fight to save the Niagara Falls Air Base. We've worked to revitalize our business districts. We've helped Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center grow to offer new services.
Some critics in state government claim not to see any difference in Niagara Falls as a result of those casino revenues. I think they need to open their eyes and look around.
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