Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — For developer Harry Stinson, the secret to success in renovating and finally opening the Hotel Niagara lies in the power of a cell phone.
During a tour the hotel owner provided approximately 50 members of Preservation Buffalo Niagara Monday, Stinson said a member of an international hotel chain he's set to align the Rainbow Boulevard property with told him the lobby is memorable enough for visitors to whip out their phones and take pictures.
"When we had one of the guys from the unknown, or rather, unnamed chain, with us, he pulled me aside and said 'this place certainly passes the cell phone test,' " Stinson said, explaining the test measures whether guests of the hotel want to simply go up to the counter, check in and go to their rooms – or pull out their cell phones and take pictures of the lobby and share with their friends.
"This is a cell phone building," he said. "When we were here last summer, we'd have the doors open. And it was fascinating watching people, no matter whether they were local tourists – by that I mean American – a Japanese family, anybody, really, they would all have some sort of reaction when they walked in. They wanted to know if we were renovating the hotel. They asked that specifically, because the building has a hotel feel. It looks like a hotel."
Hotel Niagara, which Stinson said will be associated with an international hotel chain he won't divulge the name of yet, has had a bit of a checkered past, at least recently. Considered one of the more attractive hotel properties on the American side, the building was a shining example of American architecture in the area when it opened in 1925.
But after it closed its doors, ownership couldn't make plans work. Its previous owners, Amidee Hotels out of Texas, failed to complete a renovation project, gutting the building from top to bottom.