NIAGARA FALLS – The deal involving the city, the state and the Hamister Group for a five-story upscale downtown hotel is a thick and dense legal document.
The 155-page contract, made public for the first time last week, spells out duties and deadlines for making the $25.3 million project happen.
Under the tentative timetable, which outlines the parties’ best guesses for when milestones would be reached in the project, construction would begin Oct. 28.
There is also the option of 30-, 60- and 90-day contingency periods at three points in the timeline, should something unforeseen occur.
The contract was crafted to strike a balance among timeliness, reasonableness and providing incentives for the parties involved to move the project forward as fast as possible, said Christopher J. Schoepflin, president of USA Niagara Development Corp., the state’s economic-development agency in the Falls.
“We stuck to the construct of what the original deal is, as we promised,” Schoepflin said.
USA Niagara has awarded a $2.75 million grant to Hamister for the project, which is to include at least 100 hotel rooms, 24 market-rate apartments and between 5,000 and 8,000 square feet of retail space.
The main 55-page agreement was signed by the city, state and Hamister on Nov. 15.
Accompanying that document are 100 pages of “exhibits.”
The Buffalo News obtained a copy of the contract through a request to the city under the state’s Freedom of Information Law.
The City Council, in a 3-2 vote, approved the land sale and the outline of a development agreement in September after a 2½-month delay.
The exhibits include a one-page schedule summarizing deadlines for key tasks in the process of preconstruction and construction; a parking agreement; as well as other documents related to performance bond requirements, insurance and state grant requirements, language that the land at 310 Rainbow Blvd. would revert to city ownership should the project fail to be completed, and additional legal documentation. The reason that it took more than a month for the document to become public, Mayor Paul A. Dyster said, was for development of the exhibits, including the detailed schedule summarizing projected completion dates for work to be done by each of the parties to the agreement.
“This agreement was crafted in such a way to ensure the timely completion of the project because the timely completion of the project is important,” Dyster said.
Some details became public in late November after the agreement was signed, including that there would be a 60-day “due diligence” period, as well as a 240-day period when more substantial tasks would be completed.
The 60-day period for due diligence is scheduled to conclude Jan. 11.
Other key points in the timeline:
• The Hamister Group, which made the agreement through its HH 310 LLC, plans to apply for its franchise agreement also by Jan. 11.
• City review and approval of the site plan for the project is anticipated by Feb. 24.
• The company plans to have financing in place by May 11.
• Permits are to be in place by Aug. 17.
The developer plans to obtain certificates of occupancy by Jan. 26, 2016.
The two environmental reports submitted to the state, as required as part of the first 60-day period, revealed “nothing substantial that could be detrimental to the project, in our opinion,” Schoepflin said.
As part of the deal, there is also an agreement for the use of parking spaces in the city’s ramp in the former Rainbow Centre mall.
Dyster said the city, USA Niagara and the Hamister Group are determined to move forward because of all the help, including from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, for getting the project “unstuck.”
“We all owe it to the public,” Dyster said, “to get the project done in a timely fashion.”