Originally published by The Buffalo News on July 13, 2017
By: Thomas J. Prohaska
TM Montante Development of the Town of Tonawanda was announced Thursday as the developer of a $5 million mixed-use project on the edge of downtown Niagara Falls, including a new headquarters for the Niagara Global Tourism Institute.
The complex, located a short distance north of the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel, will reuse three vacant buildings on Niagara Street and occupy what are now two vacant lots around the corner on Seventh Street.
The first phase of the project will include an 8,000-square-foot headquarters for the tourism institute, which is an affiliate of Niagara University, as well as 16 market-rate apartments, a café and 1,500 square feet of other commercial space.
“The idea at the new place is to create a co-working space and a business incubator,” said Patrick J. Whalen, director of the tourism institute.
He said the institute attempts to offer those services at its current location in the old Power City Bank Building at Old Falls and Third streets, but the layout there really isn’t suitable.
“The mission is to get an idea out of people’s heads and onto paper so they can start a business,” Whalen said.
A gated parking area is also part of Phase 1, which is to be completed in about 18 months.
Phase 2, on the Seventh Street side of the parcel, is to comprise either 10 row homes or a 30,000-square-foot mixed-use building, depending on market demand.
“The innovative proposal put forth by TM Montante Development will transform what is essentially the gateway to the City of Niagara Falls, helping to shape a vibrant downtown core for people to work, live and play,” Mayor Paul A. Dyster said. “Moreover, the dedicated incubator space for the NGTI will extend the lasting impact of this development by spurring future development for years to come.”
The three city-owned buildings at 610, 614 and 624 Niagara St. were built about 100 years ago and are eligible for nomination to the National Registry of Historic Places.
“One of the buildings was the first A&P supermarket in Niagara Falls. There’s still an old mural in there,” Whalen said. “They’re pretty cool buildings.”
The project’s financing included a $750,000 grant from Empire State Development, which the city received last December. State historic preservation tax credits for reuse of the old buildings also may be sought.
“We view this project as playing a role in the continued transformation of Niagara Falls, but we also view it as being transformational in and of itself. The new mixed-use space will represent a rebirth of these beautiful historic buildings and ensure that they have new life for generations to come,” said Chris Campos, president of TM Montante.
TM Montante was chosen from among several companies that responded to a request for proposals issued in February by the city’s Economic Development Department.
“We are excited that a company with the reputation and experience of TM Montante has decided to undertake this project in Niagara Falls,” said Anthony Vilardo, the city’s business development director. “For too long, the area north of Niagara Street has suffered from disinvestment. Through careful planning and alignment with other development in the tourism district and the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center Campus, this neighborhood is ready to take off.”