New life for Rainbow Mall in the Falls

Marvel Architects is working to redesign the unused portion of the former Rainbow Mall. The plan will restore pedestrian access through the center of the building and add services, such as retail, restaurant and tourist amenities, on the ground-level. (Michele DeLuca/file photo)

The Rainbow Centre Mall property will rise again but it’s going take a bit longer and we don’t know what it is going to look like.

WonderFalls, the previously dreamed project, is a distant memory that never made it from drawing board to reality. The Niagara Falls behemoth, owned by the city, is already partly back to life with the Niagara Falls Community College Culinary Institute occupying 87,000 square feet.

Now it’s time for the next phase, as approved by the USA Niagara Board of Directors on Monday.

Marvel Architects of New York will design the new facility under a contract paying it $4,305,663 in Buffalo Billion funds.

The adaptive reuse will reimagine 150,000 square feet of the unused mall in the heart of the downtown tourism district, opening it up to the street and making it more inviting and integrated with the tourism district. A release states the project will restore pedestrian access through the center of the building and add services, such as retail, restaurant and tourist amenities, on the ground-level.

USA Niagara President Anthony Vilardo said it should take about 18 months for the design to be completed with construction happening in 2023 and the new facility opened in 2024.

While he wouldn’t be specific about potential tenants or design, three mixed-use enterprises are under consideration. All are “heritage based” and will appeal to both local residents and tourists.

The mall is owned by the city but being redesigned under an agreement with Niagara USA.

“We appreciate the innovation and initiative to take already existing spaces and transforming it for new business and economic opportunity in the city for both our residents and tourists to enjoy,” Falls Mayor Robert Restaino said in a release.

Preliminary plans were laid out in 2012 by the Urban Land Institute but those designs never moved forward thanks to the WonderFalls dream.

The USA Niagara Board also approved a plan to turn over 466 Third St. to Cataract Development for rehabilitation and restoration.

The building is home to vacant apartments, a vacant restaurant and Donatello’s Pizzeria.

USA Niagara will have no further financial investment in the project, Vilardo said. The developer will be responsible for the rehab as well as the replacement of a collapsed sewer line.

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