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NIAGARA FALLS – The best ideas for new downtown development projects will have a crack at $40 million in public incentives, state and city officials announced Thursday.

The state and the City of Niagara Falls are offering access to public dollars over the next five years as part of a competition dubbed the “Downtown Niagara Falls Development Challenge.”

Officials said they are looking for proposals for “signature projects” to boost tourism from world-class designers, developers and operators.

Visitors to the Falls would stay longer, and spend more money, if there weren’t the limited number and quality of amenities in the Falls, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office said.

“With the launch of this competition, we are challenging talented designers and developers to dream up and propose grand ideas to transform the downtown Niagara Falls area into a premier destination that will attract tourists and fuel private investment,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This competition is a real opportunity for champions in the development and investment industries to face off right here in the Falls, with the best ideas to be turned into reality. We are looking for creative and innovative projects that will spur private development and, at the end of day, entice visitors to the area so that they will stay longer and spend more in the community.”

Economic development officials will be releasing a request for proposals in December.

The competition is part of the state’s Buffalo Billion plan. The concept for the challenge was announced earlier this year, but the incentive package and timetable were not revealed until Thursday.

Responses to the request for proposals will be due in January, with the winners announced “shortly thereafter.”

Proposals may be supported with public incentives if the plans leverage public resources; create significant downtown development, tourist amenities or destination attractions in the downtown area; and are consistent with the Buffalo Billion plan, the city’s comprehensive plan and the design standards of the state’s economic development agency in the Falls, USA Niagara Development Corp.

The public funding will come over five years, with $4 million each year from the city’s share of slot machine revenue from Seneca Niagara Casino and $4 million from the Buffalo Billion.

It was not immediately clear whether any approvals from the City Council would be necessary to access the casino funds.

A committee judging the submissions will be a partnership between the city and state, Cuomo’s office announced. Members of the committee will be announced at a later date.

Some of the $40 million will cover costs of the competition, though exactly how much was not explained Thursday.

Mayor Paul A. Dyster said in a written statement that the “innovative competition” comes at a time when officials have seen a genuine interest in investing in the downtown area.

“This transformative commitment of $40 million will jump-start the additional private development needed to create an exciting, family-friendly Niagara Falls experience,” Dyster said.

email: abesecker@buffnews.com