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USAN Board Meets and Approves General Project Plans to Advance Mixed-Use and Public Space Development in Downtown Niagara Falls

Mixed-Use Project will Create Quality Housing Downtown; See Renderings Here

Gorge Gateway Park & Hydraulic Power Plaza Project will Strengthen Connections Between Downtown Niagara Falls and Niagara Falls State Park; See Renderings Here and Here

The USA Niagara Development Corporation (USAN) Board of Directors met today and approved General Project Plans (GPP) for two prominent projects near Niagara Falls State Park: the First Street Mixed-Use Building and Gorge Gateway Park & Hydraulic Power Plaza.  Both properties were acquired by USAN through the state’s Strategic Land Acquisition Program, aimed at returning long-dormant properties back to productive use. The 333 First Street project involves the construction of a new, six-story, mixed-use building on soon-to-be-vacant land for apartments and commercial space; the placemaking project adjacent to the state park involves construction of a multi-use public space on currently vacant parcels, featuring “heritage checkpoints” or interpretive stations to encourage and amplify visitor activities and experiences. The projects support Governor Kathy Hochul’s broader housing goals for New York State and strengthen the connections between downtown Niagara Falls and Niagara Falls State Park, which attracts more than 9 million visitors annually.

“With the approval of these GPPs, USAN can take the next steps for making the projects a reality and continue to transform downtown Niagara Falls into a pedestrian, residential and visitor-friendly area,” said USAN President Anthony Vilardo. “One project will expand opportunities for quality housing in downtown, while the other supports placemaking, and lays the ground for further development in our city.” 

“With the announcement of these two projects, USAN will greatly impact development in the entertainment district,” said City of Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino.  “The proposed projects will reshape the downtown corridor for future projects. We are looking forward to continued collaboration on the park development and its contribution to the downtown district.”

The project on First Street will create quality housing that will be accessible for city workers in industries like hospitality and tourism, as well as create new pedestrian-level activity on a prominent street in downtown Niagara Falls with new commercial and community spaces. It will include approximately 73 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments units and 4,700 square feet of commercial space. The residential units will target individuals working in the Downtown Niagara Falls area with a blend of market rates and workforce housing for families earning up to 50%, 60% and 80% of the Area Median Income.  The commercial space will provide sought-after resources, including prevocational and individualized supported employment/workforce development services and community habilitation services.  See the First Street property renderings here.

In preparation for the project, USAN will demolish an existing vacant 85,000-square-foot, two-story, pre-engineered building. Following demolition of the existing building, the land will be subdivided into two development parcels—one parcel will be sold to CSE1 for the project and the other will be retained by USAN for a future development opportunity.  Now that this GPP is approved, USAN and CSE1 will enter into a Land Disposition and Development Agreement (LDA). CSE1 will pay USAN $380,000 to purchase the property and receive a $1 million capital grant from USAN.  Other financial assistance will come from NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), NYS Energy and Research Authority (NYSERDA), NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) Homeless Housing and Assistance Program, Empire State Development, and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Brownfield Cleanup Program.

The USAN Board also approved the Gorge Gateway Park & Hydraulic Power Plaza GPP.  The two vacant parcels encompass 3.7 acres owned by the City of Niagara Falls and USAN respectively, along Main, First, Second and Niagara streets. The project will strengthen connections between downtown Niagara Falls and Niagara Falls State Park along the Upper and Lower Niagara River and highlight some of the important historical events that shaped the city while providing new opportunities for future private sector development. The $17 million project will consist of an updated city-owned park and a new public plaza that will straddle Main Street. Together, the sites will create a multi-use public space that will serve as a landscaped connection between the natural wonder of the State Park and downtown Niagara Falls. Additionally, the project will include two embedded “heritage checkpoints” or interpretative stations that will effectively create smaller destinations and “activity nodes” within the broader project. Overall, the project will create context-sensitive designs that address the needs of residents and tourists; provide public space that will complement and facilitate future surrounding mixed-use infill developments; and create new accessible and safe pedestrian connections between Niagara Falls State Park and the downtown street grid.  See renderings for Gorge Gateway Park here and Hydraulic Power Plaza here.

In 2018, USAN began purchasing parcels near Niagara Falls State Park to return long-dormant properties back to productive use. In total, USAN acquired seven buildings and over eight acres of vacant land through its Strategic Land Acquisition Program.  With these key parcels now acquired, USAN has begun to focus its attention on strategies that will reactivate these properties. The first step in this process was the creation of a formal strategy to ensure new development is done in a thoughtful manner that responds to the character of downtown. The resulting “Downtown Niagara Falls Development Strategy” (read the “Downtown Niagara Falls Development Strategy” Executive Summary and the full report) illustrated a range of interim interventions and attainable development guidelines to re-imagine a more vibrant downtown in the near-term while building momentum and continuing to promote sustainable dynamic growth over time. Implementation of the Development Strategy includes the construction of several mixed-use buildings on USAN’s acquired land back to productive use, promote new year-round activity and support new economic opportunities.

About USA Niagara Development Corporation
USAN, a subsidiary of Empire State Development, is solely dedicated to the support and promotion of economic development initiatives in Niagara Falls by leveraging private investment and encouraging growth and renewal of the tourism industry in the City of Niagara Falls. More information is available here.


Pamm Lent (ESD) | [email protected] | (716) 846-8309 | (800) 260-7313
Laura Magee (ESD) | [email protected] | (716) 846-8239 | (800) 260-7313