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Development sought for former Rainbow Mall

Chris Caya/WBFO News

The state's economic revitalization fund for the area may be called the "Buffalo Billion," but it was intended to spread out across the region. Some of the funding could help repurpose a mostly vacant large building in downtown Niagara Falls.

Located between the Seneca Niagara Casino and the American Falls, the former Rainbow Centre sat vacant for nearly a decade until last fall, when about one-third of the building was transformed into the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute. But there is still nearly 200,000 square feet of empty space.

Combined with other new projects nearby and a pot of funding from Albany, a request for qualifications is being issued, according to Empire State Development Regional President Sam Hoyt. 

"An RFQ is an invitation to the world, and we are marketing this beyond the Buffalo-Niagara region...to give us feedback and input and tell us what interests you in terms of this particular property," Hoyt said

A study by the Urban Land Institute found the best reuse of the three-block-long former mall would be to break it apart and reconnect streets. 

"We're trying to undo the effects of an urban renewal that, unfortunately, cut the city off from its greatest resource, the Falls and the park at the Falls, that prevented pedestrian flows from the park into the city," said Mayor Paul Dyster.

WBFO News asked Hoyt if the large building could become one of the new casinos on Governor Andrew Cuomo's agenda for the region.  

"It's not something that we anticipated or thought about," Hoyt said, adding "We want to hear from everybody."

Officials expect to announce a plan for the old Rainbow Mall and a developer in about six months.