NIAGARA FALLS – The Dyster administration wants to buy a dormant medical arts building on Third Street to add free public parking and a vacant home on Fourth Street in order to create a shovel-ready development site.
To purchase the parcels at 515 Third and 508 Fourth, owned by McConn & Co., the city needs permission of its Planning Board and, ultimately, the City Council. The proposal will come before the Planning Board when it meets at 6 p.m. today in Council Chambers at City Hall.
If the city buys the properties, it would seek to demolish the buildings on both sites, a step that would require additional approvals.
While the administration believes Third Street needs more parking for existing businesses as well as to accommodate planned development in the coming years, the proposal is about more than just increasing parking capacity, said Seth A. Piccirillo, director of the city’s Department of Community Development.
The idea, Piccirillo said, is to bolster the connection between Third Street and the surrounding neighborhood. This purchase would create a cut-through between Third and Fourth, he explained, as the city seeks to improve the area for residents and tourists.
The site at 515 Third, between the Passport Inn and another vacant commercial building, would fit about 25 parking spaces once the medical arts building is demolished. It would also connect with the alley that runs parallel to Third and Fourth between Main and Niagara streets, a move city officials believe would make the alley safer, as well.
“There’s other parking available in that alley, but no one knows about it because you can’t see it,” he said.
Once the vacant home on Fourth Street is demolished, it could be combined with the vacant, city-owned parcel to its north to create a larger parcel that could lure a potential apartment project, Piccirillo said.
Discussions about this proposal have been going on for about six months, and the city has a tentative purchase price from the owners of $160,000, which is below the assessed value of the properties of approximately $215,000. Planning Board approval would be needed before the city could negotiate a final purchase agreement.
In recent years, the Department of Community Development has demolished 11 blighted structures on the 400 and 500 blocks of Fourth Street. The city also has recently created a small parking lot on a city-owned parcel next to 444 Third.
An engineering firm, as requested by the city, performed an evaluation of the condition of the building at 515 Third, built in 1958.
The firm pegged renovation costs at $150,000 to $200,000 if the building stayed a medical facility or as office space. Renovating the building for another use, like retail, restaurant or apartments, would cost between $500,000 and $750,000, the firm, Clark Patterson Lee, estimated.
Some area business and property owners signed a petition in favor of the proposed project, including Craig Avery, Shawn Weber and Paul Stephen.
The Downtown Niagara Falls Business Association has told city officials it would be interested in making a deal to provide the city with snow removal and maintenance for the Third Street site if it became a parking lot.
The funding to be used to purchase the properties would come from an allocation the city received from the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council in 2012 for property acquisition.