There is an ongoing battle between Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino and Niagara Falls Redevelopment (NFR) LLC. The fate of 12 acres in Downtown Niagara Falls called Parcel 0 hangs in the balance.
NFR owns Parcel 0, which is part of an assemblage of parcels. In all, NFR has holdings totaling about 140 acres, purchased over a 25-year period. NFR wants to develop Parcel 0 into a 600,000 square feet high-security, technologically advanced data center called Niagara Digital Campus. The NFR plan will bring economic revitalization to Niagara Falls along with 550 new jobs.
Mayor Restaino plans to build a 7000-seat events center, an ice skating rink, a parking ramp, and a small park with other amenities.
Restaino seeks to force NFR to sell Parcel 0 to the City through the legal process of eminent domain. The Niagara Falls Mayor plans to borrow against 20 years of federal block grant money to purchase Parcel 0. To repay the loan will take 20 years. Restaino plans to use about 45 percent of the City’s annual $2.3 million federal block grant funds each year.
Eminent domain proceedings can take years to reach a final judgment and have two phases. The first phase is to determine whether the taking is justified. The second is to determine “just compensation” for the owner.
Restaino accused NFR of creating a fictional data center project to force the City to pay more for the land. Actually, this is not accurate. In September 2021, NFR representatives met with the Mayor, the City’s Corporation Counsel, and planning officials. They discussed NFR’s plan for a Data Center. In spite of previous receptiveness by his administration, nine months later, Mayor Restaino made his comments.
Mayor Restaino, initially seemed supportive. Proof of that support came on October 4, 2021. Then-Director of Planning for the City Eric Cooper wrote to NFR about its plans to develop Parcel 0.
“Regarding the prospective development of a Data Center within the City of Niagara Falls at the corner of Falls Street and John B. Daly and south to Rainbow Blvd” to set forth “the potential process for review of this development,” Cooper wrote. Mayor Restaino was copied on Cooper’s letter.
But last June, Restaino did a complete flip-flop. The Mayor said NFR’s announcement of a $1.5 billion data center was an attempt to inflate the value of their property.
“I can’t imagine any other potential reason for it,” the Mayor told a reporter at the Niagara Gazette. “But that’s just speculation.”
Is someone at City Hall lying?
In allowed to proceed, NFR would partner with Urbacon Data Centre Solutions, a developer of commercial and industrial properties in Canada and the northern United States. NFR intends to construct one of the largest private developments in Niagara Falls history – on Parcel 0 — a $1.5 billion technology and data hub called the Niagara Digital Campus.
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