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State, city launch competition for downtown development projects

Updated 4:53 p.m.

The state and the City of Niagara Falls are offering $40 million in incentives as part of a competition to create downtown development projects.

Dubbed the "Downtown Niagara Falls Development Challenge," officials are looking for proposals for "signature projects" to boost tourism.

One of the reasons for the challenge is to build more attractions to try to get tourists who visit the Falls to stay longer and spend more money while visiting.

The area is not capitalizing on potential revenue, according to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office, because overnight stays and visitor spending are less here than in places around the country with national parks, even though the Falls draws more visitors than most.

The loss in revenue "can be traced to the limited number and quality of amenities in the Niagara Falls area."

"With the launch of this competition, we are challenging talented designers and developers to dream up and propose grand ideas to transform the downtown Niagara Falls area into a premier destination that will attract tourists and fuel private investment," Cuomo said in a written statement. "This competition is a real opportunity for champions in the development and investment industries to face off right here in the Falls with the best ideas to be turned into reality. We are looking for creative and innovative projects that will spur private development and, at the end of day, entice visitors to the area so that they will stay longer and spend more in the community."

Economic development officials will be releasing a request for proposals in December for projects which will vie for a slice of public dollars. The competition is part of the state's Buffalo Billion plan, and the concept for the challenge was announced earlier this year.

The public funding will come over five years, with $4 million each year from the city's share of slot machine revenue from Seneca Niagara Casino and $4 million from the Buffalo Billion.

A committee will judge the submissions, and will be a partnership between the city and state, Cuomo's office announced in a news release late this afternoon.

Members of the committee will be announced at a later date.

Responses to the request for proposals will be due in January. Proposals may be supported with public incentives if the plans leverage public resources; create significant downtown development, tourist amenities or destination attractions in the downtown area; and are consistent with the Buffalo Billion plan, the city's comprehensive plan and the design standards of the state's economic development agency in the Falls, USA Niagara Development Corp.

Some of the $40 million will cover costs of the competition.



Albany | business | downtown | tourism
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Aaron Besecker

Aaron Besecker

Aaron Besecker joined The Buffalo News in 2007, where he has covered communities in Western New York as a beat reporter, multimedia journalist and assistant online editor. A Buffalo native, he began his career in journalism at the Niagara Gazette.

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