With a list of conditions and requirements for further approvals of such things as a lighting and landscaping plans, the Niagara Falls Planning Board gave unanimous approval Wednesday night for a new site plan for the redevelopment of the former One Niagara building.
The board approved the construction of eight new kiosk structures and other site modifications for what the building's owners called a $12 million investment that will convert it from a tourism center to a family entertainment center.
"It's our intention to beautify the site," One Niagara's managing partner Paul Grenga told the planning board. "We would be breaking ground almost immediately."
The plan calls for the demolition of a number of temporary structures on the site and the addition of fencing, landscaping and and outdoor market, which would include the new kiosks. If construction begins this spring, the new outdoor elements of the site plan, as well as major renovations to the first three floors of the main building, would be completed by spring 2020.
"We are converting the building to a family entertainment center" Grenga said.
Noting that only 10 percent of the building is currently being used by the current food court and tourism businesses located there, Grenga outlined an aggressive plan to turn the building's second floor into a state-of-the-art arcade that would include the latest virtual-reality games.
The third floor of the structure would become home to a pair of 4-D theaters. Also a part of the redevelopment plan are climbing walls and an indoor road course.
Grenga admitted the property has had a checkered past with a long list of failed redevelopment plans and lengthy litigation involving its ownership. He told the planning board all of those issues have now been resolved.
"There was a disincentive to invest in the building," Grenga said. "Having those issues behind us, we're looking forward to moving forward."
Grenga said the addition of the outdoor market was the "brainchild" of the city's planning staff.
"We hadn't thought of that before," he said. "We're going to clean it up, pave the parking lot and put permanent (kiosks) in there. We have a responsibility to our neighbors to make these improvements."
Earlier in the day on Wednesday, representatives from One Niagara asked the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency for five years of tax breaks worth $1.55 million for the project before expanding the term of the request.
During a meeting Wednesday morning, Grenga told the IDA board he wanted a tax abatement tied to the proposal of 15 years, according IDA Executive Director Susan Langdon. Because the expansion would trigger an increase in its total value, the board tabled the item and will re-evaluate it next month with recalculated figures, Langdon said.
The application – filed on behalf of Niagara Falls Center for Tourism, LLC – describes a revamp of the building's offerings. The owners, which also include Gordon and Bernice Reger, told the IDA they would invest $10.2 million on the "family entertainment center" redesign.
Langdon said Grenga's request to expand the term was predicated on what he described as a significant capital investment in the structure and high local taxes.
"He had an argument to make and I think he made it," she said.
The application claims 33 jobs will be created as a result of the improvements and additions, including 28 positions with salaries between $25,000 and $35,000, five positions with salaries between $35,000 and $55,000 and eight positions salaried between $45,000 and $100,000.