NIAGARA FALLS – A state agency’s offer to buy a key piece of underdeveloped downtown property was another attempt by the state to assist in Niagara Falls’ development efforts, Lt. Gov. Robert J. Duffy said Friday.
It was revealed this week that USA Niagara Development Corp., the Falls subsidiary of the state’s economic development agency Empire State Development, extended an offer of $5 million to purchase the One Niagara parcel at 360 Rainbow Blvd.
“The state was just looking to help in any way that it could,” Duffy said during a visit to Niagara Falls High School on Friday afternoon.
The property, owned by One Niagara LLC, has been enmeshed in legal disputes over back taxes and assessments, along with an internal ownership struggle, for a number of years. The company, led by Lewiston attorney Paul A. Grenga, missed its April 30 deadline to pay the city approximately $1.55 million, the amount it promised to pay under a settlement deal that would have ended the legal battles.
“As a former mayor, I know sometimes when buildings stall in development, when things don’t happen, it stagnates other growth,” Duffy said. “And the state’s only interest and the governor’s only interest is in helping, when that help can help expedite the process and help folks like Mayor (Paul) Dyster who want to get this development done.”
Officials of One Niagara earlier this week said no formal offer to purchase was made by the state. They also disputed whether April 30 was, in fact, a real deadline for payment.
However, according to a state official, a document outlining the state’s $5 million offer was given to company representatives, although the paperwork may not have met the legal definition of an “offer” required in court. The state official asked not to be named because the official was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
In mid-February, the City Council approved a deal that required One Niagara LLC to pay $1.55 million of the $2.3 million it owed in back taxes. The agreement also set the property’s assessment at $1 million for the tax rolls from 2009 through last year.
The deal approved by lawmakers set a Feb. 28 deadline for payment, a deadline which was not met. Earlier this month, the city extended the deadline until April 30.
The city is preparing to move forward again with foreclosure proceedings.
Company officials said the separate lawsuits between parties claiming ownership interests have made it difficult for the company to get financing to make the $1.55 million payment. Those disputes are getting closer to being resolved, so the company wants more time to make the payment.