NIAGARA FALLS – Renovation plans by a Canadian hotelier appear to be moving ahead at a condemned hotel and conference center overlooking the roaring rapids of the Niagara River.
Preliminary plans submitted to the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals call for a 184-room hotel with a new, eight-story tower at the site of the former Fallside Hotel.
Much of the building that runs along the Robert Moses Parkway would be demolished, though plans show a four-story and a three-story building remaining as part of the project.
Merani Hospitality bought the rundown property in 2009, the year that it closed after years where it lacked investment. The company is asking the city for three variances – to allow 60 extra parking spaces and for changes in permitted setbacks.
The Zoning Board is expected to take up the variances when it meets March 18. A more detailed site plan has yet to be submitted to the city Planning Department.
The project has already received a variance from the Zoning Board that will allow the eight-story tower.
Faisal Merani, president of Merani Hospitality, said in early 2010 the hotel would be a “full-service, high-end property.” Three years ago, developers said the total cost of the renovation would be roughly $17 million.
The 3.8-acre property sits in one of the most restrictive zoning districts in the city, the Buffalo Avenue Heritage District. Two of the buildings on the site were built in 1963, with another built in 1980, according to city property records.
The property is currently assessed at $2.9 million, though it has a full-market value of $3.1 million, according to property records.
The condition of the building was a topic during the public-comment portion of Monday’s City Council meeting. Perry Jost, who runs the Elizabeth House Bed and Breakfast at 327 Buffalo Ave., told lawmakers the building is “way out of control” and that he’s called the Police Department numerous times after seeing footprints in the snow of people who have been entering the building. The police have told him they will not go into the building any more because of the presence of mold, the odor of which last summer escaped through broken windows and into the surrounding neighborhood, Jost said.
In 2009, the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency granted what was termed an unusual deal allowing the company to avoid paying property taxes for five years. The property owner was also granted sales, mortgage and property tax breaks on the property for between 15 and 20 years.
The deal was a source of contention between city officials and the county IDA after it was approved.
In 2010, the state announced it would provide $2.75 million for the project, including in the form of a $750,000 grant from USA Niagara Development Corp., the state’s economic development arm in the city, and a $2 million loan from the Upstate Regional Blueprint Fund.
Merani’s family also owns the Holiday Inn and the Four Points by Sheraton, both also on Buffalo Avenue.